From: Councillor M Westbrook
Can the Portfolio Holder for Regulatory Services and the Environment please explain the rationale for choosing the site at ‘Land East of Ringway West’ as a location to install a new battery storage facility? The land in question is included within the SHELAA, however it notes that ‘Due to the elevated position of the site, it is important that any scheme is of a high quality design due to its prominence’.
The leasing out of land to a company to create income for the council is to be welcomed to support services for our residents and we all want to see new energy saving technologies brought to Basingstoke, but does the Portfolio Holder not agree that installing what could be 4 metre high shipping containers in a prominent position on one of the main gateways to our Town, may be seen as inappropriate in this location and possibly contrary to our Local Plan?
Answer: Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services and the Environment
In 2017, council officers were approached by Ecotricity, a company with strong green credentials and who were seeking to identify a suitable site upon which to locate a battery storage facility; and which was considered by the company to have positive features in its ability to support supply to the grid but in a method which would have an environmentally low impact.
Officers met with Ecotricty and some possible sites were tabled which included the Thornycroft site. This site was considered by Ecotricity as likely to be the most suitable, however they advised that they were also considering other sites in private ownership. There was acknowledgement by officers and Ecotricity that there would need to be significant research and detailed feasibility work, of matters relating to exact siting, container design, access, noise, environmental and landscape considerations.
This is council owned land if we did not want it to get as far as a planning application it wouldn’t. Further, as the site was within the SHELAA, it was acknowledged that the remainder of the site (the Battery facility only occupying a relatively small portion of the total site area) might have housing or other suitable use potential.
Officers and Ecotricity did discuss, informally, possible occupational terms which would of course require approval via the council’s standing orders and delegation procedures.
However having said all that in 2018, Ecotricity advised officers it was unlikely they would consider the Thornycroft site further as it was no longer their preferred site option, to date we have not had their unequivocal confirmation that they no longer wish to pursue the Thornycroft site. Their final position is awaited but officers views are that they will unlikely pursue the Thornycroft site.
If any planning application ended up coming forward it would be premature to second guess the outcome of such a future application. Any application would be assessed against the councils local plan which is supportive of low carbon initiatives and sets out the criteria to be applied to any assessment.
Supplementary Question – Councillor M Westbrook
I am a bit confused by the statement from Councillor Eachus. I note from the earlier budget report that this proposal already figures as future income for the council. A substantial amount of work must have already been completed to be able to identify the proposed annual income will be £10,000 per year ongoing from 2020/21 which would suggest Mr Mayor that this is advanced enough to be put in a public document. I would imagine that every Member who sees a proposal for a structure and source of income from their ward couldn’t fail to be surprised and disappointed not to be consulted. As far as we are aware there has been no ward member or other consultations. Could Councillor Eachus please clarify why we as ward councillors and our residents haven’t been consulted and know nothing about this proposal?
For clarification Mr Mayor, it is on page 162 of the budget report under Councillor Eachus’s portfolio.
Supplementary Answer – Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services and the Environment
I can look into that but certainly at the moment it is not happening as far as I am concerned but I will look into the page on the budget.