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Refusal of gas-fired power facility plans for Sudbury hailed by Green group as 'first big step in right direction'

The rejection of plans to build a gas-fired power plant in Sudbury has been hailed by an opposition group as a “big step in the right direction” towards accomplishing the district’s zero-carbon ambitions.

Proposals by Balance Power Projects, which sought permission for a standby energy generation facility on land north-east of Church Field Road, were refused by Babergh District Council.

The committee narrowly decided by six votes to five that the scheme did not represent sustainable development and would increase the area’s carbon emissions, contravening the authority’s climate change policies.

Robert Lindsay, leader of the Green Party group at Babergh District Council.
Robert Lindsay, leader of the Green Party group at Babergh District Council.

Intended as a reserve facility to support the grid during peak demand periods, the scheme had been recommended for approval by planning officer Lynda Bacon, who said the need for the plant is time-limited and would reduce to zero over its 25-year lifespan.

“Gas-peaking facilities have a critical role to play in the medium term in the UK energy market,” she told the committee. “It is an interim arrangement, maintaining electricity supply at peak demand only until the energy network is fully de-carbonised.”

But critics of the plans say solar farms with battery storage could achieve the same goal as a gas reserve facility, but without the environmental harm of continuing to burn fossil fuel.

Babergh’s Green group leader Robert Lindsay argued that the plant, if it operated for the maximum 2,500 hours per year allowed, would produce 2.2 million kilograms of carbon – equal to almost 10 per cent of the district’s household heating emissions.

Following the committee’s refusal verdict, he told Suffolk News: “This is the first big step in the right direction for Babergh District Council.

“Given that every one of us Babergh councillors voted to declare a climate emergency and to get to carbon zero by 2030, I don’t see how councillors can look residents in the eye and say they voted in favour of this.

“Eighty-four residents of Sudbury objected and there was not one person in favour.

“The developer tried to argue that gas-fired plants like theirs were an essential part of the transition to a zero-carbon National Grid.

“But all the evidence is increasingly pointing to the fact that we need to stop building new gas plants of any type, right now, if we are to have any chance of keeping global warming within 1.5 degrees.”

It is understood that the applicant is likely to appeal against the council’s decision.

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