Mendlesham: Aspall Cyder among those objecting to �100m straw-powered energy plant plans

SOME of Suffolk’s biggest agricultural and food businesses are urging planners to reject a bid for a �100m straw-powered energy plant in the county - claiming it could have a “disastrous” impact on the local economy.

Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) meets today to decide whether to give the Mendlesham Renewable Energy Development - which would be based next to the A140 - the go-ahead.

Eco2 Ltd, the company behind the proposals, says it would inject �8m-a-year into Suffolk’s economy and create 200 positions during the construction phrase and 100 permanent jobs.

However, it has now emerged that a collective of food producers and agricultural businesses are calling for planners to dismiss the proposal.

Among them are some of the highest-profile firms in the area - including Aspall Cyder, Blythburgh Free Range Pigs, Dingley Dell and Gressingham Foods. They argue there is simply not enough straw to support the plant and fear a rise in demand would push up prices.

Howard Revell, production manager at Suffolk pig producer BQP, said: “I think there are deep-rooted concerns that agriculture is being sacrificed for the rush for renewable energy.

“We’re saying Suffolk is renowned for it’s farms and livestock and there’s a lot of businesses who feel that the economic balance is going to be upset if this straw plant is given planning.”

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Barry Chevallier Guild, chairman of Aspall Cyder, said the company sold pomace - the remains of apples after pressing - to pig farmers.

He added: “Our concern is the application is being put forward for burning straw and there’s not enough.

“We like the local community and pig farming is a big industry in this part of the world.

“Through Government policy they have been encouraged to move away from caging pigs and having free range, which requires more straw.”

Dr Andrew Toft, director of projects at Eco2: “Eco2 has always been confident that there is more than enough straw to supply existing users, our needs and to accommodate those that would prefer not to sell their straw at all.

“That is why we have chosen to invest significant time and resources in developing a straw fired power station in Suffolk.

“We will not disrupt existing markets. What we will be doing is expanding the current supply base, creating jobs and investing millions into the economy of Suffolk.

“That is our focus and we look forward to the opportunity to prove ourselves.”

The plans have also faced considerable opposition from villagers. Mendlesham Parish Council wrote to MSDC to voice its concern that lorries will be delivering straw via unsuitable small roads.

Eco2 said there would be about 100 lorry deliveries each day, which it said would have a “negligible effect” on the amount of traffic.