Power plant proposal for Exmouth business park is rejected

Plans for a gas-fuelled power plant on land at Liverton Business Park in Exmouth have been rejected.

The standby facility would have generated electricity for the National Grid to meet any shortfalls in supply and peaks in demand.

It was earmarked for a grassed plot next to an existing solar farm and would have operated, when needed, between 7am and 11pm for a maximum of 2,500 hours a year.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) planning chiefs took a dim view of the use of a fossil fuel and rejected the bid.

The authority declared a climate emergency in July and is striving to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Development Management Committee members defied the opinion of their own officers by refusing the proposals, which had been recommended for approval.

Applicant Mr John Wilding had asked for permission to install four containerised gas-fired generators for the production of standby electricity to assist the National Grid.

A meeting last week heard objections had been lodged over the use of a fossil fuel, hours of operation and noise levels.

The committee was told the plant would only be switched on when the National Grid asked for it to be in times of need to help ‘keep the lights on’.

Liverton and Exmouth would be the ‘first call’ for the power, the meeting heard.

It was argued the standby facility would help ‘bridge the gap’ in the transition from coal and heavy-polluting industries to renewables such as wind, solar and wave power.

An EDDC officer told the committee: “We are aware there is a climate change emergency and it might seem a bit perverse to be supporting a fossil fuel plant, but this is supposed to support that transition and bridge that gap while those highly-polluting plants are closing before the renewables can take over – and there are number of appeal decisions that back up that position.”

Cllr Olly Davey said the scheme should be refused and told colleagues on the committee: “I think we’re being sold one thing on the grounds it’s something else.

“This is not enabling transition to a low fossil fuel economy – it is adding further capacity for using fossil fuels inefficiently.”

He added: “Time is running out very fast and we need to develop new technologies, not fall back on old ones.

“If we allow ourselves to install installations like this, engines that are going to run on natural gas, then it is letting us off the hook and there is no incentive then, either commercial or scientific, to really work on those new technologies that will be low carbon.

“I think moving towards this kind of technology is not actually helping the transition to a low carbon future, it is going to inhibit it.”

The committee voted to refuse the application – on the grounds gas fails to minimise fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions – by nine votes to five.

Exmouth Town Council had objected to the scheme.

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