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Planners Approve Battery Storage Facility In Hooe

Friday, 17 May 2024 07:15

By Huw Oxburgh, Local Democracy Reporter

Plans to create an energy storage facility near Hooe have gained the go ahead from Wealden planners.

On Thursday (May 16), Wealden District Council’s Planning Committee South approved an application to erect 26 blocks of containerised battery energy storage cabinets and associated electrical infrastructure on land at Olives Farm.

Applicants had argued the facility would provide infrastructure intended to enable “a faster transition” to renewable energy sources, by ensuring the national grid was able to store power for times of low generation. 

Objectors, however, had raised concerns about the impact of the scheme on both the character of the area and the health of the Pevensey Levels. 

Ward councillor Mark Fairweather (Lib Dem), who had called the application into the committee for discussion, was among those to raise these concerns. He said:

“When you go down the track toward the site on the far skyline you can see houses. 

“Because light travels in straight lines, then from Boreham Street you can see straight into that site and about half a mile south, down Boreham Lane from Boreham Street, you’ve got an incredible view straight into that site.”

He added:

“If it came down to me I would have ruled it out immediately because of the proximity to the Pevensey Levels, but it seems we cannot do it categorically like that.”

Officers, who had recommended the scheme for approval, said any harm caused by the scheme would be outweighed by the ‘national benefits’ of the facility. 

Several committee members shared this view, including Cllr Greg Collins (Green), who said:

“Infrastructure is ugly, so for me the question is how do we site it best? We’ve heard that this type of infrastructure needs to be sited near access points that have capacity for both export of electricity and import of electricity.

“Decarbonising the grid is absolutely crucial. If we don’t add battery capacity to the national grid we will have to build more power stations to deal with the peaks and we’ll have to deal with the carbon impact of those power stations. But the infrastructure necessary to do that is ugly.”

Cllr Collins went on to request more extensive screening — from mature trees — as part of his support for the scheme.

Much of the committee’s discussion focused on fire safety, with several councillors raising concerns about the possibility.

Committee chairman Gavin Blake-Coggins (Lib Dem) said:

“My only experience of these types of battery things, these new-fangled batteries, is … that they spontaneously catch fire and you can’t put that fire out with the use of everyday appliances.

“So I am really apprehensive about it, I’ve got to be honest.”

Beyond damage from a fire itself, committee members were concerned about the impact of potential fire fighting on the ecology of the Pevensey Levels. 

Officers, however, pointed to the lack of objections from both the Environment Agency and the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. Both bodies had noted the need for safeguards, however. Officers noted this would include a battery safety management plan.

Ultimately, the committee agreed to approve the scheme.  

For further information about the proposals see application reference WD/2022/3191/MAJ on the Wealden District Council website. 

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