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Low carbon plan for former RAF site

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 March 2010 | UPDATED: 11:14 07 July 2010

A developer plans to create a "beacon for sustainable living" by building an £8.5m low-carbon energy plant to power the homes at a former Norfolk airbase.

A developer plans to create a “beacon for sustainable living” by building an £8.5m low-carbon energy plant to power the homes at a former Norfolk airbase.

Businessman Roger Gawn bought the disused RAF West Raynham site near Fakenham in 2007 with the intention of using the 172 ex-MoD houses as the basis for an eco-village.

That idea could take a step forward if permission is granted for the biomass-burning power plant which could supply renewable energy for the entire 160-acre site, now known as West Raynham Park.

The proposed boiler would be fuelled by low-grade woodland waste - discarded branches, bark and wood chips left over from sustainable forestry operations generating commercial timber.

The heat would drive a steam turbine generating power for all the houses - and many additional former military buildings - with some spare to be exported to the National Grid.

Meanwhile, underground piping from the redundant oil-fired district heating system which warmed the officers' quarters would be brought back into use to help pipe hot water into home radiators.

Mr Gawn said the ambitious plan would benefit the local economy, make the development “completely self-sustaining” and create the incentive of cheap energy bills for anyone thinking of moving there.

“It really is exciting,” he said. “It is all part of my eco-friendly development and this is something I have had in mind ever since the day I first bought the site.

“The burning of biomass is considered carbon-neutral, because the amount of CO2 generated in the burning process is equal to the CO2 consumed by the trees during their growth.

“It will also be an incredible bonus to all our residents. People will be able to come here and have that comfort of knowing they will have the cheapest electricity available.”

The proposed plant is expected to create six full-time jobs to operate and maintain the boiler and its deliveries. The plans state the fuel would be locally sourced from sustainable forests within 30km of West Raynham, while the resultant ash would be removed and spread on local farmland.

Mr Gawn said the fuel was burned at such a high temperature that very little smoke would escape.

Four derelict RAF buildings would be demolished to make way for the planned new building.

Mr Gawn said he had already found an investor for the scheme and, if planning permission is granted by North Norfolk District Council, the plant could be operational within two years. He hopes it will become the first of a series of ten biomass electricity plants which he plans to construct around the country.

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