The report was presented by the Senior Planner.
Councillor Watson enquired as to where the collected energy would be sent. The Senior planner explained any energy collected would go back into the National Grid. Councillor Watson raised concerns as to the size of the substation and enquired as to whether a consultation with residents had been undertaken, she also queried as to how safe the batteries were. The Senior Planner explained that consultation with residents had been undertaken which included letters and site notices as well as adverts placed within the press. She continued by explaining the substation could be as long as 20 metres in length, and as for concerns around battery safety the government were supportive of battery storage connecting to the National Grid and this was covered by legislation.
Councillor Arnold enquired as to why site access was via the A127 and A130 and not from the A13. It was explained by the Senior Highways Engineer, officers were not aware additional access points to the site, however access via the A13 would be close to a level crossing. It was confirmed there was to be no significant increase in traffic within the area.
Councillor Polley supported the concerns raised by Members she too had concerns that the proposed development crossed over Local Authority boundaries, as such Planning Members and Thurrock’s Planning Authority had no control once the boundary had been crossed.
It was commented by Members that there was a construction period of 30 weeks to enable the solar panels to be installed. Members queried as to when the site was to be decommissioned as to whether deconstructing the solar panels would be quicker than the proposed 30 weeks.
The committee were advised following questions that a highways condition survey would be included as part of the work access arrangement to ensure there would be no damage to local road networks. It was further confirmed Environmental Health Officers had no concerns with regards to noise from the solar panels.
Councillor Watson enquired as to whether the land being close to landfilled site had been contaminated. The Senior Planner advised there were no clear records of where any possible contamination could be or as to how much, however there was a condition as part of the application if any contaminated land was found then work was to stop immediately.
Speaker statements were heard from:
Mr Taylor the representative for Campaign to Rrotect Rural England commented he had concerns with regards to the use of the batteries and if over the proposed 40 year life span of the site the batteries or solar panels were required to be replaced every 10 years, this would mean more than 30 weeks of construction and deconstruction taking place on the site.
Councillor Arnold stated he felt the application would have an enormous impact on the village and the residents within the area, he suggested Members have a site visit to see first-hand the size of the proposed development.
Both Councillor Carter and Councillor Mayes shared the concerns of other Members and both supported proposal of a site visit.
Councillor Polley stated this was a huge application and she too had ecological concerns. She further commented that the residents had spoken so passionately that she too would welcome viewing the site.
Councillor Watson stated that she couldn't support the application and she had concerns as to the battery storage and highways impacts for the application. She continued by congratulating the speakers and supported her colleagues if they wished to have a site visit.
Councillor Arnold proposed that a site visit of the application been undertaken and was seconded by Councillor Carter.
For: (7) Councillors Tom Kelly (Chair), Georgette Polley (Vice-Chair), Paul Arnold, Adam Carter, Allen Mayes, James Thandi and Sue Shinnick
Against: (1) Councillor Watson