Thetford biomass plant could be rejected

Plans to build a new renewable energy plant have been recommended for refusal by officials who say it would be 'detrimental' to the area.

The biomass plant on Mundford Road in Thetford is proposed to run off waste wood, poultry litter and tall dried grass and is estimated to be able to export enough electricity to heat 68,500 homes.

But officers on Norfolk County Council's planning body have recommended councillors refuse the scheme at a planning meeting to be held next week.

In a report to go before the meeting, they said the fact the site was greenfield land would contravene policy to preserve the open countryside, that visual impact would be 'detrimental', road miles would be 'significant' as two thirds of the waste would be sourced from outside the county, and that there was 'insufficient' data to imply no adverse impact from air pollution on plant life.

The report went on: 'The nature of this development assists in the recovery of waste to be recycled and reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill for disposal, thus, in the context of use proposed, it is supported in principle.

'However there are concerns with regard to the location of the site, potential for impact upon the landscape, and with at least two thirds of the waste received at the facility not expected to arise within Norfolk there are also concerns with regard to sustainability issues.'

The applicants, MEIF Renewable Energy Holdings Ltd, said the proposed biomass plant could provide 40MW of electricity on the 12.2 hectare site and would incinerate around 339 tonnes of waste per year. The buildings could vary in height with the stack at 80 metres tall and the boiler house at 44.5m tall, 33 metres in length and 34 metres in width.

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A new right-hand turn off the northbound A134 Mundford Road is also proposed to allow access to the site and the road could be widened. Trees could be planted on the western, southern and eastern boundaries and the site would be lit at night for health and safety reasons. It could operate on a 24-hour shift pattern and around 36 staff would be employed. If given the go-ahead, the plant could take around 28 months to build, employing 123 construction workers in that time.

Objections however have also been received from Breckland District Council, Thetford Town Council and surrounding parish councils. English Heritage objected on the grounds that it would affect a nearby ancient scheduled monument and conservation area, while Natural England raised concerns about the potential for air-born pollution to the Breckland Forest site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

The Forestry Commission also raised concerns about any assumptions for significant fuel supply coming from the forestry sector. Some 56 letters and emails of objection were received, and three letters of support.

A decision will be made on January 6.

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