Minutes Extraordinary Meeting 22nd September 2020

HAWKCHURCH PARISH COUNCIL

Clerk to the Council:
Mr John Vanderwolfe Chartered MCIPD, MCMI
Newenham
5 Halletts Way
Axminster
EX13 5NB
 01297 34444
 johnvw@tiscali.co.uk

Minutes of the Council Meeting held by Zoom on the 22nd September 2020, commencing at 6pm

Present: Cllr’s R Churchill (Chairman), R Fox, T Greenshields, L Harper, J Baker, S Bartlett and A Nolan

In Attendance: The Clerk (Mr J Vanderwolfe) and 20 members of the public. Cllr’s Hayward and Hall also present.

235 Apologies
An apology was received from Cllr D Searle due to work

236 Declarations of Interest
Cllr S Bartlett-Personal Interest as husband has land near to proposed site.
Cllr R Fox-Personal- member of Hawkchurch Action Group
Cllr T Greenshields –member of Hawkchurch Action Group

237 Presentation by Axis on their submission for a Battery Storage Unit adjacent to Woodcote Substation
Mr Phil Roden explained the margins operated by the National Grid and how they deal with variations in frequency. In the past coal was used, but this is now not part of the system. Whilst they use renewable energy this can be intermittent. If the levels drop below a certain level, areas can experience power cuts. The National grid therefore looks at other markets for a 30-year period, and one of these is storage areas. He then spoke about Green Hydrogen energy, and showed a slide called different energy scenarios being considered towards the 2050 energy target. This, he stated, pointing towards a graph that showed a number of scenarios and what levels of capacity would be required over the next 30 years. Mr Roden then showed the key location criteria, and one of them would be the location of the Hawkchurch Substation. He then showed a plan of the proposed location of this development, being between the Solar Farm and the Substation. He explained that the proposal was for a number of battery containers which contained lithium. The containers are connected to invertors, which convert the electricity so that it can be sent to the National Grid. A public footpath would need to be diverted. The battery containers are on concrete footings. A plan was then showed of the invertors, which connect to the National Grid. He then showed a slide called a Zone of theoretical visibility, which is computer generated, and he stated that this shows that the area could be landscaped to protect the area. He concluded by stating that the noise level would be between 24 and 30 decibels, which he stated was of normal office Level
238 Democratic Period
A parishioner stated that the former application had been for 10 megabytes; whereon this was for 50 megabytes. Mr Roden replied that whilst his company had not been involved in the former application, there was a need for more storage with far more capacity. The member then asked what the value was for such a site. He replied that he was not party to the financial aspects of the proposal. Another parishioner, living near to the site, was concerned about the industrialisation of the site and the impact it would have on the water course. He stated that the solar farm had resulted in significant water run-off problems. He was also concerned about possible water pollution. Mr Roden replied that a drainage strategy assessment would be undertaken. He did not think there would be any contamination problems. He stated that the batteries were in containers, and although there was oil within the batteries, he did not think that could escape. Another parishioner then commented that the presentation that had been made this evening was identical to that made in 2017. She asked where the power to run the batteries came from, to which the reply came that it was from the National Grid. She asked if the power would be bought in at a price, and then sold back at a higher price. This was confirmed as being the case. Mr Roden explained that there is a contract to supply electricity to the National Grid at a specific time at a price that had been previously agreed. A question was then asked as to what percentage of the supply would be coming from the existing solar panel. Mr Roden stated he was unable to answer that point. The question put was what was different from the 2017 application. He replied that there had been significant changes in Government policy since 2017, including the need to have a net zero reliance on non-green fuels by 2050. There was a question about whether this application was producing green energy or not, with a resident suggesting that energy was being stored when being cheap, and then sold back at a profit. Mr Roden stated that if power was not manged effectively there would be a significant shortage in the future. Solar and wind farms he stated are being paid not to provide power during down times, and this system would help towards that problem. The District Councillor asked if there was any fire safety documentation within the application, to which Mr Roden replied that it was not in the application, but that battery safety was improving all the time. It was confirmed that the batteries were Lithium. The Councillor stated that there had been a number of cases of fire, including one recently in Liverpool. He stated that they had proved difficult to extinguish. He went on to ask if the remoteness of the site had been taken into consideration, and the availability of a good water supply should the need arise. There was also the question of significant water run-off following an incident. He felt that far more information was required. He went on to make the point that whilst such an event happening may be rare, there was a need to know how to deal with it if it did happen. There was then a question as to how many sites were being looked at, to which the reply was that there some 260 possible sites. Most sites are in the open countryside. He then stated that sites are normally classified as renewable energy sites because of the need to have renewable energy for the future. Another speaker stated that land is a valuable resource and that she was uncomfortable with many aspects of this application. She was also concerned about the toxic risks which had been spoken about earlier, plus the possible problems with water runoff. She requested more information on the possible effect on the local environment

Mr Roden then indicated that he had to leave the meeting, however it was agreed that questions could be forwarded to him via the clerk.

A parishioner asked if there was going to be a public consultation over the proposal. The clerk explained that due to Covid-19 such consultations would be difficult. The final point made was that there seemed to be a lack of answers to questions, however they can be forwarded to the applicant. The point was made that comments should be forwarded to EDDC who would then place them on their planning website.

239 Councillors Comments regarding the proposed application
Cllr Fox stated that she was very concerned about the need to divert the footpath. She explained that this was the Monarchs way, and that it was a very historical trail. She felt sure that a number of organisations would object to the proposed diversion of this path. She made the point that if there was a fire water could not be used to extinguish it.

Cllr Harper supported what previous speakers had said and was very concerned about the possible fire risks

Cllr Nolan made reference to the EDDC Local Plan, stating that 15.1 and 15.2 spoke of the vision for villages. This application, she stated, goes against that as it should be for the benefit of local people and support the environment. She felt that at least with the solar farm farming can continue. Subs stations are ugly and there were be a significant impact on grazing areas, and the result of this application would be to industrialise the area due to the size and dominance of the proposal, which would be disproportionate to the area.
She felt that whist the EDDC Local Plan called for green energy, she felt that the parish of Hawkchurch was doing more than its share in this direction, due to the large number of solar farms in and around the parish. Whilst she understood the dilemma that the Government has in supplying the need, she did not feel that this application was the answer. She was concerned about the fire risks presented by Lithium Batteries, and went on to provide some examples of where this had occurred. She made the point that lithium can re-ignite some time after the initial fire has been put out, therefore providing a big risk. There were she stated concerns as to whether the local fire authority had the ability to deal with such a fire. In risk assessment terms, whilst the probability was low, the hazard was medium to critical. There are also people living within 150 metres of the proposed site, some of them being in caravans. This, she felt, compounded the risk. She then made reference to a report on how to deal with lithium fires, which she could share with anyone on request.
The recent documentation states that there is no health and safety risks, and that systems are in place within each container. Advice given on Lithium states that it should not be sited near to significant infrastructures. The electric substation provides power right down to Cornwall, therefore you could wipe out the power to a vast area. She finally made the point that Harbour Energy have a negative equity and there are concerns about their financial standing.

Cllr Baker was concerned regarding the possible contamination of properties throughout the valley if anything should go wrong. She was also concerned about fire risks.

The point was made regarding the geology of the land which was green sand and clay, this means that problems could travel in the green sand for many miles

Councillors agreed to oppose the application and it was agreed that Cllr Nolan would put together the material reasons, which would then be forwarded to EDDC council by the clerk.

Our County Councillor made the point that had Hawkchurch implemented a Neighbourhood Plan this would have been useful at this stage. Cllr Nolan stated that it was hoped that this would be done in the near future. He stated that he did not see much difference between this application and the one made in 2017. There was a question to Cllr Hayward as to whether this application conformed to currant legislation. Cllr Hayward was unsure, but would ask the question of the planning department. Cllr Hayward had sent Cllr Fox a link to Western Power’s App which stated that the Hawkchurch site is the only site for 50 miles.

The response to be submitted to EDDC is shown below

20/1877/FUL | Installation of a battery storage facility and ancillary development | Land South of Woodcote National Grid Substation Hawkchurch

Having carefully considered the above application, it is the decision of Hawkchurch Parish Council to OBJECT to this application and respectfully request that it is refused at determination for the reasons set out below:

Previous planning applications

This is the 5th[ ? check] application for energy related development in the parish. While multiple PV solar panel farms, as a form of renewable energy, have been developed there have been 4 applications for other developments that have been refused.

Scale and dominance – Impact on the character of landscape

Hawkchurch already contributes significantly to the renewable energy agenda through more than 100 acres of PV solar farms, and to the grid as a whole because of the location of the Axminster Substations. The land on which the proposed development would be sited has for many years been pasture. It is often grazed by sheep and a Public Right of Way – the ‘Monarch’s Way’ a historic trail, runs through the site. It is regularly used by walkers both from the parish and visitors to the area. While both the substations and solar farms are sited adjacently, they are ‘open’ rather than built-up industrial developments, and the solar farms are still used for agriculture to graze sheep.

The proposed development is industrial in nature and would lead to an unacceptable cumulative impact on the character of the landscape. It would detract from both the amenity and environmental qualities of the area and is likely to lead to a permanent change of use of the land from farming to industrial. This proposal does not meet the needs of the community and representations from parishioners at a public meeting have shown it does not have their support.

The development would be contrary to following sections of the Local Plan:

Strategy 7 – Development in the Countryside
‘Development in the countryside will only be permitted where it is in accordance with a specific Local or Neighbourhood Plan policy that explicitly permits such development and where it would not harm the distinctive landscape, amenity and environmental qualities within which it is located’
15. Smaller Towns, Villages and Countryside
15.1 ‘… we aim to secure a vibrant and dynamic future with emphasis on community led development to meet local needs.’
15.2c ‘The character of the countryside should be conserved and enhanced and new development should not detract from this.’

Impact on community
Contrary to the applicant’s statement in document 20_1877_FUL-SCEENING MATRAIX we believe there is a significant risk of major accident, risk to the local population, impact on water resources, and risk of pollution.

Battery storage facilities carry a significant fire risk. While the probability of a fire is low, the hazard can be rated as critical or catastrophic leading to a medium to high risk rating overall. Lithium batteries are prone to thermal runaway and there are now many documented cases of battery storage units that have led to serious fires and, in some cases, explosions and/or injury to firefighters. Battery fires are difficult to extinguish and can re-ignite some considerable time later. Very large volumes of water are needed for many hours to control the fires and they need dealing with promptly, as the fire will cascade from one battery to another. The hazard increases with the number of batteries stored. Fires can reach temperatures of 800C. As well as the direct hazard from fire, there are also hazards from the release of flammable and toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen cyanide, benzene and toluene. These gases are generated within the cell enclosure before venting.

The site is within 150m of the nearest dwelling, and there are caravans and wood construction lodges within 170m. The risks to the population in the event of a fire, possible explosion and release of toxic fumes, cannot be overstated.

The proposal does not address the risks at all. There has been no engagement by the developer with fire services. We are not aware of a source of water suitable for this purpose. Access for fire vehicles would be constrained. The site is directly next to the high-voltage substations which are a critical part of the national grid, carrying the highest voltage lines. The nearest fire-stations are some distance away and response times have been shown to be critical in controlling such fires.

There are in the region of 30 households relying on water supplies from the Stonebarrow Hill Aquifer. Potential contamination with PCBs and hydrocarbons of the underlying aquifer in the event of accidental spillage or fire (where copious volumes of water would be needed to control the thermal runaway and likely result in contaminated run-off), is a cause of grave concern.

Strategy 39 – Renewable and Low Carbon Projects

This is not a renewable energy or low carbon development. It is not directly connected to the adjacent PV solar farms.

It will store energy primarily from fossil fuel sources. The source of stored energy may be from plants in the UK or, via interconnectors, from other countries. The batteries would draw power at times of low demand (usually at night) and sell it back to the grid at times of peak demand through price arbitrage or balancing contracts. Battery storage units have been shown to have a high carbon footprint.

The proposal cites the National Grids Future Energy Scenarios (FES) Report in justification for large scale increase in battery storage units to support renewable energy sources. This is somewhat misleading, as closer reading of the FES document shows that battery storage has a relatively small role in the future of energy storage due to the significant limitations on the length of time energy can be stored in batteries.

For future green scenarios, we need energy to be stored over long periods so that it can be used during the peak demand months (i.e. Winter months when heat and light demand grow but energy capture from renewable sources such as PV solar is low). Battery storage cannot deliver this unless it continues to draw power from fossil fuel energy sources, so even in the long term when more renewable energy will be available, it is therefore not justified as a sustainable renewable energy development.

Signed ———————————————————

Date ——————————————————–