East Devon: Unanimous backing for bid to cut red tape over ‘west end’ hot water and heating hubs

Proposals to cut red tape and speed up plans for ‘district heating networks’ in the west end of East Devon have been unanimously backed.

Development Management Committee chiefs this week approved a Local Development Order (LDO) for such schemes – seen as being energy-efficient and key to zero-carbon aspirations.

This will reduce the regulatory processes and delays associated with the submission of planning applications, members were told.

The Skypark Energy Centre already provides hot water and heating to commercial buildings on the site, homes in Cranbrook, and privately to the Lidl distribution centre.

A similar set-up in Monkerton – to also serve Pinhoe and the Science Park – is in the process of being commissioned.

East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) development manager Chris Rose told councillors in a report that the LDO would enable the further roll-out of ‘decentralised’ heating systems in East Devon’s west end.

He added that this would assist in the delivery of the authority’s key aim to be carbon neutral by 2040.

“Decentralised heating systems can provide significant carbon emission reduction compared to conventional heating systems and can therefor aid the transition to a low carbon economy,” said Mr Rose.

“Despite the system currently being heated by mains gas, there are overall energy system efficiencies with associated carbon benefits, for example heat recovery and a reduction in wasted heat.

“District heating networks (DHN) benefit from economies of scale with one central boiler operating far more efficiently than individual boilers.

“It is far more practical, cost-saving and energy-saving to install the DHN during the construction phase of development rather than trying to retrofit a system and, as the network is enhanced and enlarged, it enables greater economies of scale and therefore greater low-carbon benefits.”

Approval of the LDO would eliminate the need for planning permission to install certain infrastructure and would ‘speed up the process for the infrastructure to allow the transition to a low- or zero-carbon future’, added Mr Rose.

Recommending approval at Wednesday’s meeting, Councillor Mike Howe said that the committee had two choices.

These were approving proposals and then try and force the companies using the DHN to use renewable energy, or for gas boilers to be installed in every single house.

He added: “That would be wrong, so this is a no brainer. This is not perfect ,but a step in the right direction.”

Cllr Olly Davey added: “Hopefully in the not too distant future the facility in Cranbrook will be switched over to low-carbon and, when it does, every house will become low-carbon.”

Councillors unanimously backed the LDO, which grants permitted development rights for district heating transmission and distribution networks for development.

This includes the installation of pipes, cables and wires, heat exchange equipment, street furniture, and ancillary engineering works in the defined area of land around Cranbrook, Clyst Honiton in the west end of East Devon.

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