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Wetheringsett: Criticism of decision to hold biomass burner appeal without hearing

PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 March 2014

Dan Poulter MP

Dan Poulter MP

Archant

Major farming businesses last night hit out at a decision to hold an appeal over a controversial biomass burner without a public hearing - fearing the proposals will be accepted “through the back door”.

The saga of the Mendlesham Renewable Energy Plant took another turn yesterday when it was announced that the proposals - which were declined by Mid Suffolk District Council last year - would be heard at appeal via written representation.

Eco2 Ltd, the company behind the £100million plans and Mid Suffolk had favoured holding the appeal via that route - without a hearing or inquiry. But Mid Suffolk announced later, following discussions with MP Dan Poulter, that it would in fact opt for it to be held at a hearing.

At this stage the Planning Inspectorate has chosen written representations, but the case inspector can change that decision.

Campaigners against the plant, which would be built off the A140, argue it would take valuable straw resources away from established agricultural businesses and could cause farms to close.

Last night the businesses, Blythburgh Free Range Pork, Aspall Cyder and pig producer BQP all voiced their fears over the decision.

But Eco2 has always maintained the plant would boost the economy by providing hundreds of jobs and would not disrupt existing farming markets.

Last night Mr Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said: “If the planning inspectorate has elected, and I will be looking into this in more detail, to follow written representation then I would be very disappointed because I believe there are benefits from a hearing into the details of the case.”

But Eco2’s Dr Andrew Toft said the decision was “entirely” in line with planning guidance and the inspector would be obliged to consider comments from all sides.

He said: “We remain convinced that the plant would complement rather than compete with other agricultural businesses in Suffolk. We are simply asking the planning inspectorate to look again at the evidence; otherwise the income, jobs and investment associated with the scheme could be lost forever.”

A Planning Inspectorate spokesman said that despite considering the interest in the appeal it was felt that it could be dealt with without the need to ask questions via a hearing.

A date for when the appeal is due to start has yet to be given.

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