Pilots at a Suffolk airfield have spoken out about how plans to build a power plant near their runway pose serious safety concerns for them.

The plans filed by Privilege Finance are to build an additional anaerobic digester (AD) in the gap of land between an existing AD and Beccles Airfield’s runway.

Patt Fenn, a pilot who has been flying at Beccles Airfield at Ellough since 2014 and owns a hanger at the site, believes the applicant hasn't considered the "complicated process" of flying.

Beccles & Bungay Journal: Pilot Patt Fenn in his hangerPilot Patt Fenn in his hanger (Image: Denise Bradley)

Mr Fenn said: "Landing an aircraft is already a very complicated process, and thanks to the solar panels to the right of the landing strip, we often have to align our plane slightly to the left of the runway, which isn't ideal.

“This is to ensure we do not crash into the solar panels. Crashing into the solar panels, a steel object, could be seriously fatal.

"The AD’s proposed development site is on the land to the left of the runway which means there will be no room for error in landing.

“Considering at this airfield we run flying lessons, for a trainee pilot, we want to minimise the risk.

"The proposed development increases the danger to the learner and the AD imposes issues of increased distraction, when all we want a trainee pilot to focus on is the plane itself."

Beccles & Bungay Journal: The proposed AD site is the brown field next to the existing AD which is pictured far leftThe proposed AD site is the brown field next to the existing AD which is pictured far left (Image: Denise Bradley)

A spokesperson from the applicant, Privilege Finance, has said the plant has been "designed with the public and local businesses in mind".

The applicant is also willing to cooperate with businesses further to minimise concerns about the development.

Beccles & Bungay Journal: Beccles Aerodrome operator Tim GallopBeccles Aerodrome operator Tim Gallop (Image: Denise Bradley)

But despite this, Tim Gallop and his wife Ava, who have been working as airfield operators since May 2019, have "serious safety concerns" about the plans, especially after a fatality happened at the site last year.

Mr Gallop said: "We are not trying to pick a fight, or being unreasonable, nor are we against the science of what the AD does.

"It's just we have serious and pertinent safety concerns.

"Only last March we, unfortunately, had a fatality on site, and though we are still awaiting the conclusion of the investigation, the incident highlights the dangerous nature of flying.

"Everything happens in a split second, every decision, and anything which can be a distraction, such as this development, should not be permitted.

“The applicants say their plant is safe, and their plant may well be safe, I’m not saying it isn’t, however, it is absolutely not safe for pilots.

“And it isn’t just us who think that, the Civil Aviation Authority who have conducted an independent report, which simply concludes that the AD site would be dangerous for pilots."

Beccles & Bungay Journal: The existing AD siteThe existing AD site (Image: Denise Bradley)

Mr and Mrs Gallop also say they have put "blood, sweat and tears" into the airfield site as they have "totally transformed things" to put the community at its heart.

Mrs Gallop said: "We have worked so hard to change the way things were run before, it is no longer a private members club and is central to the community.

"We have created the cafe and restaurant, guest rooms, created over 60 jobs from making coffees to teaching junior pilots to fly.

"Whereas the report from the AD says the plant will create only six jobs, in contrast.

“We have put blood sweat and tears into making it what it is now, it was tired and run down, we have invested a lot of money into the project and wish to continue this development.

Mr Gallop added: “If this was a disused airfield then I would totally understand why the applicant wished to place an additional AD nearby to the existing one, but unfortunately for them, this is one of the busiest private airfields in the country.

“We have about 20,000 visitors per year. 

"We have examples of people who have gone on to start their careers as pilots having begun here, we fill up air ambulances and military aircraft, who come here regularly.

"We picked the airfield up by the scruff of its neck while it was on its knees, it would be heartbreaking for us all to see this development go ahead. 

"We have volunteers home here to work because they love it, such as the guys in the control room who are retired and help out because this is their hobby."

Beccles & Bungay Journal: The brown field is the proposed site for the AD development which includes tall buildings which will cause wind shear which may endanger pilotsThe brown field is the proposed site for the AD development which includes tall buildings which will cause wind shear which may endanger pilots (Image: Denise Bradley)


A statement from the applicant Privilege Finance said: "Privilege appreciates that there have been some concerns raised as part of the public consultation process for the proposed food waste gas to grid plant at Ellough.

"These concerns will be addressed in due course as part of the planning process.

"The plant has been designed with the public and local businesses in mind to eliminate the impact on them wherever possible and we will continue to engage, so there is a full understanding of the proposed plant and the benefits it delivers."

Beccles & Bungay Journal: Beccles Aerodrome from the groundBeccles Aerodrome from the ground (Image: Denise Bradley)


AD plants use organic waste and crops – such as manure or maize – to create biomethane that can be used to produce power.

Around a decade ago, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said such schemes should be an important part of the government's strategy to increase energy from waste.

Supporters say they are environmentally friendly because they reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.