Eye: Power station gets backing in principle

Eye Airfield .

Eye Airfield .

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet has given its backing in principle to the creation of a new gas-fired power station at Eye Airfield.

But it retains concerns about how the new station would operate – and the disruption local communities are likely to face while it is being built.

Cabinet member for planning Richard Smith said the government, and the council, remained committed to generating power from non-fossil fuel power stations.

However it was necessary to have generating capacity to fill in gaps when there is no wind for turbines or no sun for solar panels.

He said the £200 million 299 megawatt station was likely to generate electricity for about 1,500 hours a year, about 17% of the time.

Mr Smith said in discussions with the proposed developers of the plant, Progress Power, it had been agreed to reduce the size of the chimneys from 90 metres to 30 metres high – they would be much lower than the wind turbines nearby.

The power station is seen as a “Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project” which means the final decision on whether it could be built will be taken by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

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Mr Smith said: “We must focus on local issues. While there has been some progress on issues like putting cables underground and the size of the chimneys, there are other issues that need to be resolved.

“We have to put our initial comments forward by November 7, but there will be an opportunity to look at other concerns later in the process.”

Opposition leader Sandy Martin was disappointed the proposal was for an air-cooled gas power station, not a combination plant which was water-cooled and was more efficient.

He said he did not have the technical expertise to know whether it was possible to operate a combination gas power station on a stand-by basis, able to generate power within 15 minutes of the need being identified, but if it was, and alternative site near a supply of water should be identified.

Local county councillors Jessica Fleming and Guy McGregor said the report was thorough, but much more consultation was needed.

A full public inquiry is expected to be held next summer with a decision in 2015. If approval is given the plant could be operational in 2018.