Devon council rejects 'inappropriate' gas-fired power plant

A Devon council has rejected plans for the construction of 20 gas-fired electricity generators on grounds including that the scheme would be "inappropriate development in the open countryside".

East Devon Council's headquarters (pic East Devon Council)
East Devon Council's headquarters (pic East Devon Council)

Acting against the recommendation of a planning report to East Devon District Council’s development management committee, councillors refused permission for the construction of "20 self-contained natural gas engine driven electricity generators". 

The scheme, proposed by applicant Plutus Energy, would have been built on land outside Woodbury, near Exmouth.

Key to the decision was Strategy 39 of the council’s local plan, which states the authority’s commitment to promoting the use of renewables and low carbon energy, as grounds for refusing the plans.

The planning report to the committee said that the proposed development "would be powered by natural gas and therefore it is important to recognise that this technology is a facilitator of renewable energy rather than a renewable technology or low carbon energy project itself and therefore there is little direct policy support within Strategy 39 for this proposal."

However, it added that "whilst Strategy 39 of the local plan promotes renewable and low carbon energy, it does not in itself provide an in principle reason to refuse proposals for fossil fuel energy development."

On balance, planners considered that the adverse impacts from the scheme would "not significantly or demonstrably outweigh the benefits that would be derived from the scheme which would support the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy by providing back-up generation to help achieve the transition to a sustainable, low carbon future."

A statement from the council said the application had "proved controversial with the local community who raised a number of concerns regarding noise and pollution from the facility, as well as fears that a low carbon energy generation and storage facility was not being proposed, which would be consistent with addressing the climate change emergency declared by the council only a few weeks earlier."

It added that the committee resolved to refuse the application on the basis that "it would be inappropriate development in the open countryside, with local plan policies only supporting renewable and low carbon energy projects in the open countryside" and a further reason for "related to concerns about the impact of the proposal on air quality in the locality."

In August, a new administration at a West Midlands authority decided to review plans for a major bypass partly over climate change concerns. 

A Planning article looking at what council declarations of 'climate emergency' mean for planning can be read here. 

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