Express & Star

Battery energy storage site plans for farmland are rejected

Plans for a battery energy storage facility on farmland near Penkridge have been thrown out by councillors concerned about impact on the countryside.

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South Staffordshire District logo on a street sign

The proposal, which would have enabled up to 50 megawatts of energy storage, was earmarked for a 3.7 hectare (9.1 acre) site on the south west side of Levedale Road and recommended for approval by planning officers at South Staffordshire Council.

But on Tuesday members of the council’s planning committee voted to refuse permission. Several members of the public attended the meeting to view proceedings and hear the decision.

Martin Liddiard, who spoke against the application on behalf of residents, said: “It is almost a tragic irony that South Staffordshire’s Adopted Policy has in its strategic objectives to protect and maintain the Green Belt and open countryside in order to maintain the distinctive character of South Staffordshire. How does this application achieve that?

“We see it that this application proposes the construction of what is plainly a large, desperately unsightly, potentially highly dangerous industrial plant in the middle of the South Staffordshire countryside, designed for the profit of others. It’s in direct conflict with local planning policy, especially relating to environmental conservation, landscape preservation and sustainable development.

“There is understandable and powerful local opposition. It reflects a collective concern for the preservation of their environment and quality of life.

“The potential for fire hazard and explosions associated with BESS (battery energy storage site) facilities should be a significant concern. There are many examples internationally.”

Ward member Andrew Adams was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, but his concerns were read out by fellow councillor Meg Barrow. His statement said: “Here we are again, David versus Goliath; the residents and farmers versus the financial giants of the city.

“The only motive in this application is that of financial gain, with scant regard for the agricultural surroundings that will be changed for two generations. South Staffordshire is rapidly becoming the go-to place for battery storage and solar panel applications.

“The number of applications that are in the pipeline is frightening. How much agricultural land should be sacrificed in the search for ever-increasing profit?”

But Anglo Renewables director Duncan Howie, who spoke in support of the application at Tuesday’s meeting, said: “We need to tackle climate change, we need cheaper power and batteries can provide the energy security this country badly needs. Climate change threatens the entire planet; indeed your own council has declared a climate emergency.

“It is a common misconception that batteries are not green. Batteries are critical in enabling us to use greater amounts of green power more effectively and net zero by 2050 will not be achievable without batteries; they are fundamental to enabling the storage of renewable energy.

“Batteries are a source of cheap power – something we badly need as we are gripped by the cost of living crisis. They allow greater utilisation of the cheapest form of electric from solar and wind.

“More batteries and more renewables means less reliance on foreign fuel imports. By 2030 National Grid require 13 gigawatts of energy storage to allow us to use more cheap renewable energy; there is currently only five gigawatts of energy storage projects installed and operational in the UK.

“Another misconception is that batteries are not safe. All of the necessary assessments and management plans have been completed for this site and your own local fire service has raised no objections to the proposal.”