Response to Copland Biogas Article

On the 15th of December, an article was posted in the Beccles and Bungay Journal regarding our planning application to develop an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant to produce renewable, green energy.

We are grateful that the journalist Bruno Brown gave us the opportunity to include a comment in the article, however, we note the bias toward the airfield and would like to correct and clarify some of the points raised. It is essential for the integrity of the reporting and the understanding of the readers that all perspectives are accurately and fairly represented.

In the interests of transparency, we would like to share the following statement which we hope will be appended to the article:

“We would like to make it clear that the previous planning application for a proposed AD site at Copland Way has not yet gone to a Planning Committee for a decision, and therefore has not rejected as stated in the article.

Safety, minimising disruption, and engaging the community remains our top priority. Therefore, we dispute claims by Mr Gallop and Mr Fenn that they have received no communication or consultation in the development of the Copland Biogas site. In fact, we have consulted with the aerodrome on several occasions, starting in December 2022 and April and February of this year.

Alterations to the site layout, to ensure pilot safety, have been validated by independent aviation experts recognised by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We have specifically ensured that no part of the infrastructure on-site extends above the OLS (obstacle limitation surface), which means that we have wholly complied with the guidance in this respect.

We have also undertaken an independent flight test at one of our sister plants, where a small light aircraft was flown at low altitude above an active flare. The test flight concluded no noticeable impact on the aircraft (please see the video below the statement). The test report has been submitted to Suffolk County Council in the revised documentation, and hence is in the public domain on the planning portal.

Regarding the potential for odour emissions, we have worked closely with environmental consultants to mitigate these concerns. A state-of-the-art odour abatement system will be installed to the food and organic waste processing hall.

The odour abatement system will create negative air pressure inside the hall by sucking air into the building via louvres and expelling the odour laden air from the hall via a filtration process that removes odorous emissions. All food waste tipping occurs within this closed building, coupled with the latest in automatic fast-shutting roller doors, meaning odour release will be minimised. Additionally, we have upgraded the covered lagoons in the site design with sealed storage tanks, enabling residual gas to be fed back into the sealed gas cleaning process, without releasing it to the atmosphere.

Finally, we would like to emphasise the green benefits of the site. The government has set a target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Therefore, there is a pressing need to build systems and infrastructure to achieve this transition. Utilising unavoidable food waste, such as peelings and inedible parts of organic produce, from households, supermarkets, and food manufacturers, is crucial for tackling greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, only 30% of the UK’s food waste is segregated, leading to the majority ending up in landfill or incineration. With Suffolk among the councils not currently segregating food waste, the proposed AD plant offers a sustainable processing solution for this waste. This is especially pertinent given DEFRA's recent mandate for all Local Authorities to implement separate kerbside food waste collections by 2026.

To be clear, the new Copland Way plant will not process manure and crops, as suggested. It will in fact have the capacity to process up to 100,000 tonnes of locally sourced organic and unavoidable food waste each year from local households or businesses. The resulting biomethane produced from this process displaces the need for fossil fuel-derived natural gas, turning an otherwise unused resource into valuable renewable energy, as well as removing up to 8,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Following a mixed technology approach is essential to fully decarbonise the economy and is the only way we will meet the UK’s complex energy demands and climate commitments. AD therefore provides a vital solution to complement intermittent sources of energy, such as wind and solar.

We invite members of the community to visit our dedicated website, to learn more about the Copland Way development, where specific concerns can be considered using the contact form.”

We invite you to view the video below, which shows one of the test flights over an almost identical AD site with the flare running at full capacity to demonstrate there are no issues. The pilot who flew the plane that day stated:

“I have been informed that gas flaring is a backup measure used only in emergency. The flare was operated as a demonstration during my assessment flight. The flaring process was not visible from my aircraft and it did not disrupt its flightpath. In my opinion the process therefore does not present a risk to aircraft in flight”.