CAMPAIGNERS have claimed a victory after forcing a council to quash its own decision on a controversial planning application for two energy storage systems on a greenfield site.
East Hampshire District Council gave energy company Anesco Ltd the green light to build the systems, with a total capacity of 49.95 megawatts, on land south of Lovedean Electricity Substation in Waterlooville back in April.
But after a residents-led successful challenge to the High Court the council has accepted it made two mistakes when processing the application – and have agreed its decision should be quashed.
The council made errors in determining whether or not the application was a major development and whether an Environmental Impact Assessment was needed.
Ken Ross, who worked closely with Action to Protect the Living Environment Around Lovedean/Denmead (Apleal) – challenged the council in a judicial review.
He said: ‘Residents and the South Downs National Park raised a significant number of legitimate objections to this development which threatened the rural landscape.
‘The issues highlighted were completely ignored and we were left dismayed and confounded when the development was voted through unanimously.
‘We felt we had no other option than to go to the expense of a judicial review to make our voices heard.’
A development is considered major, requiring further studies and assessments, if it covers an area more than one hectare.
When the application was submitted it showed the site at 0.99 hectare. The council said Anesco changed its plans to include another small piece of land, pushing it slightly over the threshold of one hectare, but this was not shown on the application.
The council said it was therefore incorrect and should have shown the site as being over, but that it accepted its role in not recognising that error.
Mr Ross added: ‘Far from seeing a resident might actually be trying to do the right thing by pointing out flaws in the application that needed resolving, the councillors saw my position as adversarial.
‘The cost to the taxpayer is likely to be in excess of £70,000, all of which could so easily have been avoided.’
The two energy storage units were to each comprise of 20 containers, which would have been 12.2m long and 2.4m wide.
In determining whether or not an Environmental Impact Assessment is required the council has to take future works planned nearby into account.
EHDC said it thought works at the large electricity substation adjoining the site had been completed – but it had not.
It said as a result, it was not able to assess the full impact of these works on the environment and accurately determine whether an assessment would be required for this application.
Councillor Ingrid Thomas, chairman of EHDC’s planning committee, said: ‘Planning is complex, technical and process-led and the system relies on the procedures being properly followed.
‘In this case we accept we made two errors in processing the application and, as a result, we have consented that the permission given for this application should be quashed by the High Court.
‘We are sorry for these errors and will be working hard to make sure they are not made again.
‘I expect Anesco will re-apply.’
Jeremy Warren, chairman of Apleal, said the group’s objections on flood risk, light pollution, sustainability and transport issues were brushed aside.
He said: ‘Apleal will be questioning the council’s ability to take the correct decisions regarding any further applications in the area, and sincerely hope they do not treat us with the same disregard in the future.’