East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s planning committee yesterday narrowly approved developer Sewell Group’s proposal for a mixed-use commercial development, featuring its own on-site energy supply, on the former aerodrome site.
However, the scheme must now be referred to the secretary of state who could decide to consider it himself, the council said.
The outline application for the Yorkshire Energy Park was approved by six to five votes after members of the committee were swayed by the 4,000 jobs boost the developers claim the scheme could generate.
Sewell is proposing to build on about half of the site, some 43 hectares, much of which is currently used for pasture and is located less than a kilometre from the border between East Riding and Hull councils.
The centrepiece of the scheme is a 24-hectare business park, earmarked for a mix of light industry, storage and distribution together with research and development space.
The other major proposed use is a 2.9-hectare data centre, housed in three halls. The data centre and business park would be powered by an on-site gas fuel cell with associated batteries.
The application also includes two 20MW gas fired peaking plants which are designed to export electricity to the National Grid.
Other proposed uses include a 2.7ha education and research campus together, a sports centre and 11 football pitches plus a 33-hectare "ecological mitigation zone" on the eastern site of the site.
However officers recommended refusal for the scheme on the grounds that it is located in an area of open countryside that is safeguarded against development in the adopted East Riding Local Plan.
In addition, the site is not one of the plan’s identified employment allocations, according to the report presented by officers to the committee.
While acknowledging that the developers have sought to minimise the scheme’s impact, the report concludes that it would eat into a "significant amount" of the "key open area" separating Hull from the neighbouring hamlet of Saltend.
Officers added that the scheme's potential jobs would be "equally well" delivered on the key employment locations already allocated in East Riding’s local plan.
But the report says the applicant had not demonstrated that there is a specified end user, which is the local plan’s test for allowing substantial employment development that cannot be accommodated on sites already designated for such uses.
Commenting on the committee’s decision, Alan Menzies, East Riding’s director of planning and regeneration, said: "The principal reason for the decision was the overwhelming economic benefits, which outweighed in the view of the majority of the planning committee members the fact that the site was not allocated for employment use."
According to the counci, as the decision is a departure from the local plan, it will be referred by East Riding to the housing and communities secretary, who will decide whether to call it in for a public inquiry.
Sewell has claimed that the scheme, which they say is worth £200 million, is backed by bluechip companies including EON, IBM and Vodafone.
Yorkshire Energy Park Project Director Claire Harrison said: "We have listened, responded and worked incredibly hard to develop a scheme which benefits the community.
"We are glad the committee recognised this and approved the plans. We look forward to working with both local authorities, our partners, end users and, importantly, local residents in creating this flagship scheme for the Humber in the heart of the UK’s Energy Estuary."