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Gas-fired power plant proposals in Sudbury draws wave of opposition over noise and air pollution concerns

Plans for a gas-fired power plant in Sudbury are facing growing opposition, due to noise and air pollution concerns, with a long-standing business arguing it would threaten the local environment and employment if approved.

Balance Power Projects is seeking planning permission to construct a gas-powered electricity reserve facility – a power plant that burns natural gas to generate electricity – on Chilton Industrial Estate.

A statement submitted on behalf of the developer, which aims to build on vacant land north-east of Church Field Road, claims the plans represent “sustainable development” by ensuring a consistent energy supply during periods of high demand.

A bird's-eye-view of Skyview Systems on the Chilton Industrial Estate in Sudbury, and the vacant adjacent site where a gas-fired energy facility has been proposed. Contributed picture. (37179907)
A bird's-eye-view of Skyview Systems on the Chilton Industrial Estate in Sudbury, and the vacant adjacent site where a gas-fired energy facility has been proposed. Contributed picture. (37179907)

But the proposals have drawn heavy criticism from residents, with more than 50 objections lodged online since the end of May, while Sudbury Town Council has called for the application to be thrown out.

Skyview Systems, which operates its business adjacent to the proposed turbine site, is also campaigning against the plans, warning it would have to review its position in the town if the development is green-lit.

Managing director Nic Hart said the plant would produce significant greenhouse gas emissions, and undermine local green energy initiatives, such as the large solar panel installation at Skyview’s shared office building.

“This has come as quite a shock,” he told the Free Press. “If we end up with a gas-burning station next door to us, we may reconsider our involvement in Sudbury.

“Obviously, we’re stunned that, in this day and age, people would be applying for gas-burning power stations. It’s an outdated method of power production. Developments like this are not with the times.”

The planning statement in support of the application acknowledges that the gas-fired turbine would not provide direct employment, but claims it would contribute to the growth of the reserve energy sector.

“Developments such as that proposed will support the transition to renewable energy sources, by providing additional energy when other energy providers cannot meet demand,” the statement reads.

“By supporting the transition to renewable energy, standby energy generation facilities will indirectly support the positive environmental, social and economic impacts associated with renewable energy.”

But Mr Hart believes the plant would be “extremely undesirable for all of us”.

He argued the emissions could have adverse consequences for patients at the nearby Sudbury Community Health Centre, and that the noise would be bounce around the Chilton area, causing a nuisance for businesses and pedestrians alike.

“If this application were for a coal-fired plant, it would be turned down immediately,” he said. “Although gas is slightly more efficient, it is, by no means, a green initiative.

“All Sudbury businesses should be looking at reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.

“It’s definitely gaining traction. People are definitely becoming more conscious of the benefits of green energy.

“This application flies in the face of creating a good working environment for businesses in this area. They will all be affected by the noise of this unmanned plant.

“I’m hoping many businesses and the public will see that an application of this sort is not beneficial to the town. For people living and working in Sudbury, it’s very detrimental.

“Skyview has been in Sudbury for 20 years, and our company has been working for 30 years as a green initiative. Obviously, we would review our location if this application goes through.”

The Churches Conservation Trust has also lodged an objection, citing concerns with the plant’s proximity to the Grade I-listed St Mary’s Church in Chilton, and the effects of noise and air pollution on people using the 15th century church.

However, Babergh’s heritage and design officer Jonathan Duck has stated that the facility, while visually unattractive, would not further damage the setting of the church, and he could not object to the proposed development.

The plans have faced opposition from Margaret Maybury, Babergh district councillor for the Chilton area, who stated she feels that society is meant to be moving away from fossil fuels.

“I’m concerned about pollution and the impact it might have on Sudbury’s water meadows and the residents of Chilton,” she said.

“It seems quite an amazing planning application, and I don’t know why on earth they’re doing it.”

The application can be viewed on Babergh District Council’s online planning portal, using the reference number DC/20/02035.

Public comments must be submitted to the council, via the planning portal, by July 1.