Energy storage plant runs into green belt barrier

Substantial harm to green belt openness and harm to rural character and appearance have led to dismissal of a proposed energy storage facility in Kent.

The elevated site was used as occasional overflow car parking for an adjoining aggregate storage facility, although the council claimed that it had an agricultural use. The appellant contended that the energy storage facility needed to have a green belt location to put it within one kilometre of its proposed connection point to the national grid and to be financially viable.

The scheme’s impact on the openness of the green belt and the surrounding area was the principal focus for the inspector. In his view, the site was clearly seen as part of its surroundings. He decided that the storage facility’s scale, height and overall extent would result in a loss of openness and encroachment into the countryside, contrary to the purpose of including land within the green belt in the first place.

He felt that the shipping container-style structure, set behind a tall palisade fence, would appear in stark contrast to the area’s rural and undeveloped nature. He found that it would be visible from nearby homes and public rights of way, harming the character of the area, and could not be satisfactorily mitigated by landscaping.

The inspector noted that the scheme’s claimed benefits included providing opportunities to balance energy supplies to the national grid and supporting more efficient use of renewable energy sources. The absence of any specific agreement to ensure that all the stored electricity would be derived from renewable sources, and of any details as to its capacity or likely carbon dioxide savings, reduced the weight he could give to this aspect, especially as he felt that paragraph 91 of the NPPF did not apply. He concluded that the proposal was contrary to policy and found no special circumstances to justify a decision other than in accordance with the development plan.

Inspector: Richard Aston; Written representations

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