Wetheringsett: Thousands of jobs at risk if Eco2’s controversial biomass plant goes ahead - claim

Pigs pictured at Blythburgh Free Range Pork. Up to 3,500 jobs could be lost if plans to build a biom

Pigs pictured at Blythburgh Free Range Pork. Up to 3,500 jobs could be lost if plans to build a biomass burner in Wetheringsett are given the go-ahead according to planning consultants - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Up to 3,500 jobs in East Anglian agriculture and food and drink industries could be at risk if a company is given permission to build a £100million biomass plant in the Suffolk countryside, it is claimed.

Eco2, the firm behind the plans for Wetheringsett off the A140, are preparing for an appeal over Mid Suffolk District Council’s decision to dismiss the plans last year.

The proposals have attracted strong criticism from some of Suffolk’s biggest food and agricultural firms over fears they could be driven out of business as they argue the straw-burning plant would cause the commodity’s price to rise.

Planning consultants Porta Planning has issued a statement on behalf of Mid Suffolk, claiming up to 3,500 jobs in the region would be at risk if the plant is given approval.

It said that straw underpins a “very substantial agricultural (and, by association, food and drink) industry” in the region.

Jimmy Butler, a partner of Blythburgh Free Range Pork, said: “A lot of jobs will be at risk if this goes ahead and I am not just talking about the pig industry, it’s the other sectors – what about the supply people, the veterinary surgeons, livestock hauliers? If people do not keep pigs then a lot of other industries will not be required.”

But Eco2 argue there is “sufficient” straw in East Anglia for the plant to not affect existing markets.

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Andrew Toft, the firm’s director of projects, said: “It is a fact that the UK produces far more straw than it can currently use. We tap into that unused but valuable excess. Eco2 remains confident that there is sufficient straw in East Anglia to maintain the supply to current markets whilst meeting the emerging market in renewable energy.

“In expanding the supply of straw, we boost agricultural incomes, bring jobs, generate inward investment and help combat climate change.”

Philip Isbell, Mid Suffolk’s corporate manager for development management, said: “The statement made (by Porta Planning) is a representation of the council’s position which will be part of the evidence at the hearing. The council refused the application, clearly the appellant does not agree with that because they are appealing so the inspector has to decide between two different arguments.”

The appeal hearing will begin at Mid Suffolk’s offices in Needham Market on August 19 from 10am.