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Council asks businesses for help raising £1.6m to power employment site - 14 months after saying new £160m biomass plant would solve the problem

PUBLISHED: 10:07 14 January 2016 | UPDATED: 10:07 14 January 2016

The Biomass Power Station being constructed at Snetterton, just off the A11.

The Biomass Power Station being constructed at Snetterton, just off the A11.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2016

A council which told businesses a new biomass energy plant would “unlock” an employment area could be looking at a bill of up to £8.5m to fulfil its promise – and has gone back to firms to ask for help raising money for an alternative solution.

Key questions

Ellen Jolly, Breckland cabinet member, answered two key questions on the new biomass plant:

1. Breckland said the biomass plant would open up employment land. Is that not still the case?

“Breckland has been working with partners to identify power supply solutions which will unlock the potential at Snetterton Heath. One potential solution makes use of a power cable which is currently being installed between the Snetterton Biomass Plant and Diss. Therefore, the biomass plant may still play a key role in Snetterton Heath’s long-term power provision.

“In addition, the existence of the biomass plant, along with other businesses in and around Snetterton Heath, makes the area more attractive to new businesses and will help justify any future bid for funding support.”

2. Why wasn’t there a condition in the biomass plant plans to ensure energy went back to Snetterton?

“Breckland made it a condition of the plant’s planning permission that it would have the future potential to provide an upgraded power supply to the local area. This condition has been properly discharged.

“The council believed in good faith this would assist in bringing about the necessary upgrade to the local power supply. It is the case that businesses would always have been required to apply to UKPN for supply, but the technical process for achieving this has proved far more complex than was originally anticipated.

“A biomass power station feeds electricity into the grid. Local businesses need a resilient supply from the grid. Only by application to UKPN can a power supply be achieved for any business.”

Breckland Council told businesses in November 2014 that the £160m Snetterton Renewable Energy Plant – currently being built off the A11 –would provide electricity to kickstart the Snetterton Heath employment area.

But when plans were approved in 2012, the council did not include a condition to ensure power would go back to Snetterton when the biomass plant opens in 2017 – only that it would have the potential to do so.

It is now reaching out to businesses to fix the lack of electricity, with two solutions being mooted.

They include spending £8.5m connecting the employment land to the grid at Diss – a prospect which Breckland admits is unlikely until enough interest in shown in the area by businesses.

Among those affected is the Attleborough firm Pearn Wyatt & Sons.

Stuart Bizley, an independent surveyor for the company, said Breckland had assured firms the project would solve the energy problems at Snetterton Heath.

“Everybody was under the understanding that the biomass plant would solve the power problem at Snetterton. We’re not the only ones. That’s not currently happening but it could work by connecting to a substation.

“We are pleased Breckland have found a solution, but how they pay for that is another thing,” he said.

The first solution being considered would see £1.6m spent on connecting Snetterton’s existing power infrastructure to a sub-station at Attleborough. This would deliver an extra six mega-volt amps (MVA), taking the capacity to 9MVA.

For this to happen, Breckland plans to invest £25,000 to secure a contract option with UK Power Network, committing it to install cables, if funds can be raised by October. It is asking businesses to give their views on the plans.

The biomass plant project is owned by BWSC EAL.

What do you think? Have you been affected? Let us know by emailing andrew.fitchett@archant.co.uk

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