Home Miniature house Miniature gas power plant in the countryside approved

Miniature gas power plant in the countryside approved

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A NEW miniature power station near Goring will help tackle the climate crisis, according to the company behind it.

Balance Power Projects won a tender to build the gas plant on disused farmland west of Wallingford Road.

This was despite opposition from the parish councils of Goring and South Stoke, who claimed the environmental benefits did not justify the visual impact on the Chilterns Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Dozens of residents objected, saying there would be no specific benefit for them and that the plant would be “unsightly” and negatively impact them due to lighting, noise, emissions and Traffic.

The “Transitional Hybrid Power Project” will include four large gas generators, each with a 7m chimney, which will create power to cover periods when solar, tidal or wind farms are not contributing to the national grid in due to weather conditions.

The plant will be next to the Thames Water sewage treatment plant with access via a new track on the main road, next to the Hildred family pick-your-own farm. It will have a lifespan of 25 years.

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, refused to grant planning permission, saying the development would encroach on the countryside and cause ‘unacceptable damage’ to the rural character of the setting.

But planning inspector Helen Davies did not think the proposal was a major development in the context of other buildings on the 0.42 hectare site and said the factory would be well planned.

She said: ‘The main body of the site is a modest portion of a larger agricultural field. It is delimited on two sides by existing trees, where it borders a large agricultural building and the treatment plant.

“The proposal would add additional built form to the landscape, but the area would be relatively small. The main body of the site would occupy an area much smaller than the sewage treatment plant and similar to the area of ​​the large farm building and yard as well as an electrical substation. The rest of the field would remain open.

“In this context, the proposal would not introduce built form into an otherwise undeveloped area and would not appear to be an unacceptable encroachment on the countryside.

“The height of the proposed buildings would be relatively modest but would be higher than that of the treatment plant. A combination of a lowered ground level and the creation of bunds would provide screen for the lower sections of buildings, leaving only a modest amount above the bunds.

“Four flues above the buildings would add height and will probably be the most visible element of the proposal. Despite this, the mass of the flues, especially when viewed from two sides, would be relatively weak.

The existing trees and farm building would provide a “substantial and immediate” screen on two sides. Ms Davies said: ‘A mixture of native plantings in a deep strip across the bunds would provide a screen on the other two sides.

“Development would be modest in scale and would include significant mitigation screening. I conclude that the proposed development would not conflict with the character and appearance of the area. The proposal is not a “major development” in the AONB. »

Balance, from Merseyside, said the plant will take a year to build and once operational it will produce seven megawatts of electricity at peak times, enough to power around 5,000 homes.

In a statement, the company said: “The project will bring economic and social benefits through construction jobs and increased investment in the local economy.

“A good and reliable energy supply is essential for a strong economy and economic growth. By contributing to a reliable supply of energy, the development will also contribute to long-term economic growth and associated employment.

“Development impacts associated with emissions and air pollution have been assessed against air quality goals set to protect human health and sensitive ecosystems. This assessment showed that the project will not lead to any exceedance of the air quality objectives and that the total concentrations will remain well below the thresholds.

“In terms of infrastructure impact, the highest traffic flow to the site is expected during the first six weeks of construction and after that traffic averages around two trucks per day for the remainder. the construction period Once the development is operational, it will generate very little traffic.

“While the land use of the site will change over the 25 years of operation, the project will positively impact the surrounding area through the planting of new trees and shrubs which will visually obscure development and provide net gains in biodiversity.

“After the decommissioning of the site, it will be restored to its previous condition and use.

“The pressures on farmers are increasing, especially with changes to subsidies and with energy costs at an all-time high. Finding new ways to use land alongside traditional farming practices is therefore necessary, both in terms of securing long-term income and tackling the climate crisis.

Goring Parish Council had argued that the plant would run counter to its ward plan and could set a precedent for further development.

He said the proposal would also run counter to the district council’s climate emergency declaration, in which he pledged to act to reduce carbon emissions, and that it would be better to just build a series of batteries and no generator.

He said: “Providing a facility in a protected area which is very far from places of need makes no sense. There are better options and more suitable locations.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England also opposed it. The district council’s air quality, campaign and environmental health officials had raised no objections, nor had Oxfordshire County Council as the highways authority.