Planning approval granted for our site at Peterlee, Durham

Enso Energy welcomes the decision by the Planning Inspectorate to grant approval for its fast response electricity generation facility at Peterlee, Durham.

The decision comes after Durham County Council twice refused applications for the development, and highlights fundamental flaws in the planning process in the UK.

Enso Energy selected the site and assessed it to be technically and commercially viable, and suitable on planning and environmental grounds. Significant investment was committed to assessments and reports to demonstrate that the development would not result in any significant issues, and through this process, none of the statutory consultees (including the Council’s officers and advisors) raised any objections to the proposal. The case officer, responsible for advising the Planning Committee, twice recommended the application for approval, as there were no grounds for refusal.

Enso Energy respects the principle that Planning Committees should have the ability to make whatever decision they see fit for every application that they consider. However, we strongly believe that where evidence is provided and supported by experts, who have the role of objectively assessing the information presented, this should be given significant consideration. In order to decide an application against officer recommendation, we believe there should be clear and substantial evidence that requires a “planning balance” decision to be made. In this case, we do not believe that there was a strong basis for the Committee’s decision. This is now endorsed by the Inspector’s decision.

The actions of the Planning Committee to twice refuse the application have resulted in significant delays and additional cost. Enso Energy will assess its options for how these can be recovered.

The UK government has introduced a range of measures, legislation, regulation and policies designed to address the present needs facing the county in terms of electricity and energy supply.

Projects such as this will play a central role in the efforts to balance the supply and demand of the electricity network in the UK and the transition to a decentralised, and low carbon electricity supply. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have made significant inroads in recent years, and standby generation facilities will play a key role in assisting with the variable nature of these sources of electricity, particularly at times of high demand.

The gap between supply and demand for electricity has been closing and warnings on potential disruption to supply have been frequent for a number of years now. The measures that have been taken have been successful in keeping the lights on, as over 12GW of baseload (mainly coal-fired) supply has been shut down since 2012. With recent announcements indicating that new nuclear generation does not appear to be progressing, and further announcements regarding the planned shutdown of coal-fired generation, there will be an increased demand for flexible and fast-response electricity generation to help smooth the peaks and troughs of electricity supply and demand – which is what this facility is designed to provide.