Agenda item

57524/001/FUL/JonH - Land south of Lovedean Electricity Sub Station, Broadway Lane, Lovedean, Waterlooville

Anesco Ltd

 

Installation of two energy storage systems and associated infrastructure with a total capacity of 49.95MW (as amended by additional information received 6 November 2017 and 7 March 2018)

Minutes:

Installation of two energy storage systems and associated infrastructure with a total capacity of 49.95MW (as amended by additional information received 6 November 2017 and 7 March 2018)

 

Cllr Schillemore, the local ward councillor, left the committee in order to address the item as the ward councillor.

 

The Planning Officer explained that concerns had been received commenting that the proposal was essentially 50MW and therefore an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was required.  The applicant had confirmed that storage would be limited to 49.95MW and therefore the scheme was below the 50MW threshold for EIA development.  A Screening Opinion was issued in October 2017 which concluded the proposal was not EIA development and that remained the case.  

 

The purpose of the development was to provide an energy storage facility for the management of supply of energy across the distribution network.  The government had identified storage facilities such as that proposed as part of a ‘smart’, flexible energy system that balanced supply and demand issues arising from the greater and more intermittent nature of renewable energy sources.  The site at Lovedean had been chosen as it had the capacity to connect to the distribution network.

 

In terms of the principle of development, the site was in the countryside so policy CP19 was applicable.  The only development allowed was that with a proven need for a countryside location.  In this instance, the infrastructure form of development and the location adjacent to Lovedean sub-station, which had sufficient capacity to connect the storage facility, warranted the countryside location.  

 

Policy UI1 of the Local Plan Second Review allowed for new utility infrastructure where it was acceptable in environmental/landscape terms; the amenity of adjoining property would not be harmed; traffic was not harmful to the local highway network and measures to mitigate the environmental impact were incorporated.

 

The Department for Energy and Climate Change published ‘Towards a Smart Energy System’ in 2015 which set out objectives for meeting the challenges of security of energy supply, affordability of energy and decarbonising the environment.  It referred to the demands and challenges facing electricity supply with demand forecast to increase (potentially double) by 2050.  It set out a vision of a ‘smart’ energy system which included energy storage as a key mechanism in providing flexibility to the energy network.

 

As a principle, it was considered that energy storage was a substantial benefit to the energy supply network and allowed for the integration of the energy generated from renewable sources that had increased dramatically in recent years.  

 

The scheme had to be balanced against environmental considerations and primarily in this case landscape impact and the setting of the public footpath were key considerations.  With regard to landscape impact, the site had a strong rural character and was open to the south.  The Lovedean sub-station was generally well contained but was a significant landscape feature in the area.  The visual impact would impact most significantly on views from the public footpath to the south.  There would be a significant change to the appearance of the site resulting in harm from the industrialised nature of the containers/structures leading to visual harm before the proposed landscape planting matures.  The track would be clearly visible from Broadway Lane from the gate but would be enclosed on its southern side by a new hedge and this element was not considered to result in unacceptable harm to the area.  

 

The main impact was from the footpath where there were clear views towards the site.  The footpath was generally open with expansive views to the south.  Containers would be 3.3m in height with one building of 3.4m in height.  Two stantions would be 5.5m in height, so the development would be low rise.  

 

The proposed landscaping would provide a belt of 15-25m deep native woodland species and amendments to the landscaping now included 21 trees with a height of 3-3.5m to give some immediate screening and break up the outline of the structures.  It was accepted that there would be some harm to the setting of the footpath and the planting would take a few years to establish.  However, in view of the benefits of the scheme and that once established, the planting would provide comprehensive screening, the harm was not considered to be over-riding.  

 

In terms of amenity and noise, the two nearest properties - 1&2 Broadway Cottages, were approximately 180m from the site.  The main amenity consideration was impact from noise.  The Environmental Health Officer initially raised some concern as the submitted Noise Impact Assessment indicated that whilst noise levels would result in no harmful impacts against existing background noise levels during the day, there was potential for harm to amenity during the quieter evenings/night times.  Following receipt of further information, Environmental Health subsequently removed their objection and proposed conditions 14 and 15.

 

No lighting was proposed other than for use in the event of an emergency. A condition was proposed to secure details of any such lighting to safeguard the amenity and rural character of the area and in the interests of the nearby SDNP Dark Sky Reserve.  

 

The site was within flood zone 1 (low risk) and within a Groundwater Protection Zone.  The drainage strategy proposed to route all surface water run-off to a swale and infiltration trench.  Subject to a condition regarding detailed design of the trench, the Drainage Officer had no objection.  Portsmouth Water removed their initial objection in respect of potential impacts on groundwater, subject to a condition.

 

The submitted habitat survey and ecology report identified two outlier badger setts in the woodland to the north and recommended protection measures to ensure badgers would not be affected during construction works. The County Ecologist supported the mitigation measures set out in the Ecological Report and raised no objection subject to condition.

 

The Crabdens Copse SINC to NE was also an Ancient Woodland.  The proposal would be 30m from the SINC woodland and the Arboricultural Officer was happy that there would be no impact on the SINC.  

 

The access utilised the existing field gate with Broadway Lane.  Traffic would be generated during the construction phase but once operational, the development would be limited to 1-2 vehicle movements per month.  There was a shortfall in the visibility splays, but in view of the quiet nature of the lane and the level of traffic that would use the access and in view of the fact it was an existing field access, it was considered the proposal would not generate unacceptable risks. 

 

The nearest listed buildings were approximately 900m from the site and the officer was satisfied that the scheme would not impact on setting of any heritage assets.  A desk based archaeology report had been submitted and no remains had been identified but as there was potential Roman and medieval artefacts, archaeology conditions were proposed.

 

The committee was addressed by the following deputees:

 

(1)   Mr Ross spoke on behalf of objectors to the application.

 

As set out in Appendix 1 attached to these minutes.

 

(2)   Cllr Tickell spoke on behalf of Horndean Parish Council.

 

As set out in Appendix 2 attached to these minutes.

 

(3)   Mr Shepherd spoke as the agent for the application.

 

·         Anesco’s systems provided technology to store and release energy to the National Grid when required, for example, if a power station went offline unexpectedly;

·         The energy was classed as renewable or low carbon;

·         The proposal had led to a number of objections for which they had worked hard with the Planning Officer to make sure these were addressed;

·         This was a site specific location.  Consideration to the landscape was important and the proposal would result in no overriding concern or impact to the National Park; and

·         It would realise significant public benefits that would outweigh the minimal harm.

 

(4)   Cllr Schillemore spoke as the local ward councillor.

 

As set out in Appendix 3 attached to these minutes.

 

The committee noted the total capacity of the energy storage system would be 49.95MW, just under the threshold for an EIA.  In response to a question raised as to how the capacity would be limited, the Principal Planning Officer said that a licence limited the capacity and physical elements would also be installed in order that it did not exceed 49.95MW.

 

Concern was expressed that the report stated there had been no thorough examination of exploring alternative sites.  Officers advised that the site had been chosen because of the capacity of Lovedean sub-station to accommodate the proposal which was for the local electricity network as opposed to the National Grid.  Sub-stations were usually in highly developed areas and the nearest alternative sub-station was South of Havant, adjacent to an employment site, which did not have capacity for the system proposed.

 

Cllr Cowper proposed deferral in order for officers and the applicant to construct a schedule of alternative sites in order to demonstrate that this was the best available site.

 

Cllr Joy seconded the proposal.

 

The committee voted on the proposal for deferral.

 

Following the vote, the proposal was declared LOST, 3 Councillors voting FOR deferral, 10 Councillors voting AGAINST deferral and 1 Councillor ABSTAINING from voting.

 

It was noted that the site sloped so the land would have to be cut and filled to level the site.  The committee sought an additional condition regarding levels.

 

Some councillors queried why the proposed landscaping did not include taller trees which would provide more instant screening.  Officers confirmed that larger trees could take longer to establish, tended to go into shock and remain at the same height and were also more likely to die resulting in odd gaps to backfill.  3.5m trees would establish more quickly.  Members felt 21 trees to be inadequate and wanted additional planting to include evergreens which would control any noise during Winter months.  Officers advised the landscaping condition would be revised to require further landscaping details to be provided.

 

Concern was expressed that conditions 14 and 15 meant that any noise levels above those predicted in the Noise Impact Assessment could take up to six months to rectify and therefore suggested the suspension of operation whilst noise measures were put in place.  It was also requested that the wording of the conditions be amended so the Council could agree the person/company who would undertake the acoustic report.  Officers advised the conditions would be revised and agreed with Cllr D Evans, the Chairman of the Planning Committee and the Portfolio Holder for Planning.

 

Cllr Cowper proposed that the application be refused for the following reason:

 

The site comprises a field in an open and elevated position and in close proximity to a public footpath. The proposed energy storage system comprises containers and structures that would result in an industrialised appearance to site and would cause harm to the visual appearance of the area, particularly for users of the public footpath and the rural character of the area. The harm to the landscape outweighs the benefits of the scheme and the proposed landscape screening would provide insufficient mitigation.

 

The proposal is therefore contrary to policies CP1, CP19 and CP20 of the East Hampshire District Joint Core Strategy, policies T4 and UI1 of the East Hampshire District Local Plan: Second Review.

 

There was no seconder.

 

The committee voted on the officer’s recommendation for permission subject to:

 

·         An additional condition relating to ground levels;

·         A revised landscaping scheme with additional trees to include evergreens; and

·         A review of conditions 14 and 15.

 

These were to be agreed with Cllr D Evans, the Chairman of the Planning Committee and the Portfolio Holder for Planning.

 

Following the vote, the recommendation was declared CARRIED, 14 Councillors voting FOR permission, no Councillors voting AGAINST permission and no Councillor ABSTAINING from voting.

 

Cllr Schillemore re-joined the committee.

 

Cllr Evans left the meeting.

 

The meeting adjourned at 7.26pm.

 

The meeting reconvened at 7.29pm.

Supporting documents: