FARMING businesses have backed controversial plans to build a renewable energy plant in the Lothians.
Bosses at J Haig Hamilton and Sons, a family firm based in East Lothian, have lodged an application for an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility at Standalane, Ballencrieff.
East Lothian Council has recommended approving the proposals.
Now leaders of 30 companies have added their names to an open letter of support, which was published as local authority chiefs prepare to decide whether to green-light the blueprints.
However, the plan has also sparked anger among some residents, who have raised concern over traffic congestion and the development’s impact on the surrounding area.
The proposals will be considered during a gathering of East Lothian’s planning committee on Tuesday.
In a sign of the level of interest in the issue, officials have decided to hold the event at Haddington Corn Exchange rather than the council chambers, which is where meetings usually take place.
Anaerobic digestion involves a series of natural biological processes through which organic waste material – known as feedstock – is broken down by micro-organisms and converted into energy.
The biogas can then be used in a combined heat and power plant, or cleansed of carbon dioxide and injected into the National Grid.
Farmers expressing support for the plan said it would enable them to “diversify” their sources of income at a time of intense pressure on agriculture.
Their joint letter has been signed by businesses including AG & KJ Bain, Beanston Farms, R & T Dale, D Dalrymple and N Donaldson.
It states: “As we write, the farming industry is facing its greatest crisis in living memory.
“In many cases farms are getting market prices that are at the same level as prices in the 1980s, and way below the cost of production.
“At this time more than ever, it is vital for farms and farmers to diversify and strengthen their businesses to meet these unprecedented economic and market challenges.
“The proposals for an AD facility at Standalane can play an important role in diversifying our businesses and protecting jobs within more than 30 local farms and businesses. We commend these proposals.”
However, protesters today insisted the plant would have a negative impact on communities and urged councillors to reject the plan.
Local campaigner and writer Mike Wilson, 63, said: “Along the northern coastal corridor of East Lothian, which embraces the country’s beaches, golf courses, historic sites and nature reserves, from Longniddry, Aberlady and Gullane to North Berwick, there is almost universal hostility to the proposed development, including twice the number of farmers who have agreed in principle to the gas plant.”