Beet growers battle for renewable energy plant

Campaigners have raised more than 120 objections against plans by sugar beet growers who hope to secure an alternative market for the crop.

Farmer-owned co-operative Fengrain wants to build a 2MW anaerobic digester (AD) at Wimblington, Cambridgeshire. If permission is granted, the plant would consume 35,000t of sugar beet from more than 400ha (1,000 acres) annually.

A planning application for the project has so far attracted 146 public comments on the Fenland District Council website. But only 20 comments are supportive, with 126 comments against – mainly from local residents.

See also: Sugar beet growers face hefty price cut

“Our property is situated to the east of the proposed site and will be affected by the effluent smell that is common with such a plant,” said local resident Martin Jarvis. “I have visited several other anaerobic digesting plants and have been alarmed by the extreme stench.”

That view is in stark contrast to an “odour assessment” by consultants GF Environmental in support of the venture. It said: “Odour release from the proposed AD facility is unlikely to be a reasonable cause for complaints from people living and working in the vicinity of the site.”

The dispute highlights the challenges faced by farmers seeking to develop alternative markets for sugar beet. Beet prices remain under pressure and many growers are increasingly concerned about the crop’s viability once EU sugar quotas end in 2015.

In addition to electricity, Fengrain says it would generate a “regular, very low-risk income” helping to underpin overheads for the next 25 years.

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