Rural location inappropriate for battery storage facility

A battery storage facility has been refused at a Wiltshire farm for lack of justification for its open countryside location, harm to the appearance and character of the area, moderate harm to highway safety from construction traffic and potentially harmful effect on archaeological heritage.

The facility would comprise various inverters, transformers, battery units, alongside the creation of an access track, security fencing, four metre high pole-mounted floodlighting and security camera provision and would enable the storage of energy from the National Grid during periods of lower demand, trading it back during periods of higher demand. In considering the issue of its visual impact, the inspector held the appeal site was exposed in the landscape at a high topographical point and readily visible from an adjacent right of way and long-distance views. On this basis he concluded the installation would, directly and perceptibly, serve to reduce a sense of openness detrimental to landscape character, regardless of any mitigation. 

A cyclist fatality at a nearby junction and the narrow, winding lanes with limited passing places to access the site, also led the inspector to identify a harmful impact from construction traffic on highway safety, albeit for a temporary period. He felt any increase in traffic in such a location with acknowledged safety issues, particularly heavy goods vehicles, would not contribute positively towards the safe operation of the highway network. He opined that 252 construction vehicle movements for a period of 16 weeks was not insignificant and would result in moderate harm.

In assessing the site’s countryside location overall, the inspector acknowledged NPPF paragraph 154 which states that applicants should not be required to demonstrate the overall need for renewable or low carbon energy and that the benefits of even small-scale projects should be recognised. The inspector held, however, that the appellant’s argument in favour of the scheme was different. It was instead that the installation would represent a valuable addition to the National Grid that would, in turn, allow for greater renewable energy generation. The inspector opined that the weight accorded to the benefits of the scheme therefore relied on the extent to which it had been robustly demonstrated that the function that the installation was designed for would entail benefits to renewable energy production. He concluded there was insufficient evidence in this regard and refused the proposal as conflicting with the development plan overall. 

Inspector: Thomas Bristow; Written representations

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