Battery storage steamrollered

Thursday 18th January 2018 4:24 pm
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South Hams District Council decided, last month to allow Statera Energy, a newly formed London, company to build a 49.9MW battery storage unit at Staverton. It will probably be the largest unit of its kind on the Earth.

This is in spite of Staverton Parish Council rejecting the project. It will be built on a Riverford organic green field, and, incidentally, provide more than a few extra pounds income for the farm. Note the size, 49.9 MW. If it were a mere 0.1MW larger, it would require a development consent order.

We, the 29 contributors to this letter, accept the science of climate change, and our need to reduce CO2 output. We do not object to the idea of battery storage of electricity, especially of renewables. We do object to an industrial project being built on a greenfield site with homes in the next field, rather than on a brownfield site.

We are astounded that the council should have granted permission, almost unopposed, after just a few minutes’ discussion. According to Travers Smith, a specialist law firm: “… battery storage is the way ahead for renewable energy.

“There has to be various practical, legal and technological hurdles to overcome before this solution can be fully implemented and one such hurdle is that way in which energy storage is treated in the planning system.” Is there the degree of expertise in the council to deal with all the implications of this very new project?

Cllr Hilary Bastone, valiantly trying to defend the council’s decision on Radio Devon, stated that there had been “months of consultation… and now one or two people have decided to object too late”.

We really do contest this. Those of us who live near, and now object to, the proposed “storage facility” knew nothing, until just before the parish council meeting in November.

Most, or all, of us have still yet to meet a Statera representative. This policy of non-communication has been self-defeating, a woeful absence of a company’s management skills.

“Get the community on your side,” is the usual mantra for those planning intrusive new projects. The claim that the battery will store renewable electricity is also interesting. At the Tresoc (Totnes Renewable Energy Society) AGM in December, we learned that nobody on the committee had heard of Statera’s project in Devon.

Sarah Squire, a planning adviser, writing to South Hams stated” “The applicant needs to demonstrate that in case of fire, the toxic chemicals released as a result of battery fire and fire suppressants will not directly enter ground or surface water.” Has this been done? It is also worth looking at the comments made by the chief fire officer in his report to the council: “This proposal must comply with……. minimum road widths… and a maximum reversing distance of twenty metres.”

The unclassified road on which the plant is to be built, has very few passing places, is subjected to some 300 or more cars using Riverford Farm daily, plus vans, lorries and Riverford‘s own 40-ton vehicles. We have difficulty at times using this road ourselves, and we live on it. We do not envy the driver of an emergency fire appliance in a hurry.

Democracy? Months of consultation? Our perception is that this decision was rushed through.

As stated already: (a) none of the local residents had any notification from the company of its plans; (b) Staverton Parish Council rejected Statera’s project; and (c) at the district council meeting, only one resident was allowed to speak, and that for only five minutes.

We are afraid that Cllr Bastone was a little misleading in his interview, and want to make it clear that we do not plan to be quietly steamrollered.

Don and Jan Patterson

Well Cottages, Buckfastleigh plus 28 others

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