Community wins battle to stop Mill Hill battery storage plant

A plan for a battery storage plant on greenbelt land at Mill Hill has been rejected by councillors.

The proposal to build the facility on fields next to the National Grid substation at Partingdale Lane was unanimously rejected by members of Barnet Council’s planning committee at a meeting on March 30.

City planning chiefs had backed the scheme, saying in their report that its support for renewable energy and the fight against climate change constituted “very special circumstances” that would allow the development of the green belt as part of board policy.

But the plans have been met with fierce opposition from residents, with the council receiving more than 900 letters of opposition and just two letters supporting the project during a public consultation.

Designed to store energy in times of oversupply so that it can be used in times of high demand, the proposal would have seen 20 containers reach almost three meters high, housing battery storage systems installed on a virgin site of 0.49 hectares, as well as a transformer stations, fences and CCTV cameras.

According to the planning report, the program would help the national grid to respond to “increasing fluctuations in generation” caused by the increased use of renewable energy sources and “support the objectives of meeting the UK’s energy commitments. ‘net zero carbon emissions and the climate emergency’. ”.

Roger Selby of the Mill Hill Preservation Society said at Wednesday’s meeting that the special circumstances that would allow building on the greenbelt had not been demonstrated.

Stressing that the land was a site of metropolitan importance for nature conservation and “home to many rare and protected species”, he said the facility would “damage ecological networks and impede wildlife movements”.

Mr Selby said the level of noise produced by ’20 huge containers of batteries’ was likely to be ‘considerable’ and warned it would ‘impact the life and physical and mental health’ of residents of the neighboring roads “for the next 40 years or longer”.

Gary Temple, president of the Hillview Road Residents’ Association, said the noise from the proposed facility’s cooling fans would add to the “already continuous hum” coming from the substation, and that this “noise pollution” would deeply affect the residents.”

He warned there were “risks to health and life with this facility”, citing reports of fires and a “fatal explosion” at similar facilities.

The committee also heard objections from Councilors John Hart, Val Duschinksy, Elliot Simberg and Hendon MP Matthew Offord.

Philip Roden, a planning officer for the claimant, told the meeting that the Conservative government and National Grid had recognized that energy storage would play a “key strategic role in supporting the move to net zero”.

He added: ‘The wider environmental benefits and the strategic need for storage represent a very particular circumstance which outweighs the damage to the greenbelt.’

Mr Roden claimed the site had ‘limited ecological value’ and that new landscape proposals would ‘enhance biodiversity’.

When questioned by advisers, the agent said the applicant had searched for industrial land but could not find any suitable sites near the substation. He added that Mill Hill was one of the “very few places” in the UK with spare capacity to accept a 50 megawatt installation such as the one proposed.

After hearing the evidence, committee members voted against the agents’ recommendation to approve the plan. They then voted in favor of a motion to refuse the program on the grounds that it would be an inappropriate development on the green belt and that the very special circumstances did not exist to compensate for the harm that would be caused.