Bosses at a digestion plant are asking for regulations which limit their work to be relaxed.

An application to increase the opening hours and remove a 30 mile catchment rule at the Biogen plant in Bluebridge Industrial Estate, Halstead, has been submitted to Essex County Council.

The plant is responsible for disposing of an estimated 45,000 tonnes of food waste every year, with a third being sent on from county hall and the rest coming from supermarkets and food manufacturers.

Biogen is asking for permission to begin processing waste an hour earlier on weekdays and Saturdays, meaning operations would begin at 7am rather than 8am.

As part of the application, the plant is also bidding to increase its catchment area.

Regulations mean the plant can only accept waste from customers within a 30 mile radius of it's base in Halstead. Bosses argue removing this catchment would allow the plant to have a better chance of remaining competitive in the food waste market.

The planning statement adds: "Some food waste suppliers have a preference for straightforward single contracts in which the waste is sent to a single AD plant. Should Biogen attempt to stipulate which proportions of these clients’ waste streams should be sent to Halstead, it is unlikely that any of these contracts would be secured, with adverse consequences for the Halstead operation and the people who work there.

"In this respect the catchment constraint leaves the Halstead plant at a distinct competitive disadvantage. Almost all of the food waste digestion plants that it is competing with operate under no catchment constraint.

"In the absence of defined catchments for most plants, other operators are free to accept food waste from Essex whilst the Halstead plant is unable to make a competitive response."

Biogen says the extended hours and relaxing of a catchment area would not see an increase in deliveries to the plant and opening an hour earlier would help reduce traffic around the industrial estate in the morning rush hour.

Residents have previously complained about an unpleasant odour coming from the Halstead plant during operating hours.

However, inspectors from the Environment Agency stated the plant was not to blame for the smell during a visit earlier this summer and instead said the odour is likely to have been a result of farming.

A decision on whether to grant Biogen permission to extend opening hours and remove the 30 mile catchment rule will be made later this year.