BRITISH SUGAR plans to build a 25m plant next to its Wissington factory in Norfolk to turn sugar beet into biofuel.

It would support hundreds of jobs in the local economy and could be operational within two years.

About 600,000t of sugar beet would be needed to produce 55,000t of bioethanol each year.

British Sugar wants a share in a biofuels market which could be created if the government moved to encourage the use of environmentally friendly fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The use of bioethanol instead of fossil-derived petrol would reduce such emissions by 70%.

In the recent pre-budget report, Chancellor Gordon Brown confirmed that the government would consult on a renewable transport fuel obligation to force the UK fuel industry to use a specified percentage of green fuels.

British Sugar has submitted a planning application for the plant to King’s Lynn Borough Council. But Trevor Smith, head of development for British Sugar, said any approval could sit on the shelf if the market for green fuels was not created.

“This is very much a first step along a very long road. Government support for an obligation remains a requirement for a large-scale industry to be developed in the UK,” he said.