A DECISION to refuse plans to develop gas-powered electricity generators in Risley has been overturned.

New Hall Farm Energy Limited's application proposing the reuse and extension of an agricultural barn to accommodate the generators, as well as the storage of electricity in batteries, was turned down in November last year.

However, it lodged an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate – an executive agency sponsored by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The application also included the demolition of an existing agricultural building to pave the way for a new building.

The site is located in the green belt.

The council turned it down as it was considered that it would result in a disproportionate loss of visual amenity.

But the Planning Inspectorate's decision to overturn the refusal means the company can build the 'grid-balancing' facility within an existing building at the site to ensure there is a continuous supply of electricity in the area.

Inspector Beverley Wilders said: "The proposed oil tanks and the acoustic fencing, which form part of the proposal, are inappropriate development and they would lead to limited harm to the openness of the green belt."

However, she added: "There would be significant environmental benefits and moderate economic benefits resulting from the proposal, which I find clearly outweigh the harm that I have identified.

"Consequently, the very special circumstances necessary to justify the proposal do exist in this case."

Cllr Ian Atkin, chairman of Birchwood Town Council (BTC), who is also a chartered chemical engineer based in Birchwood, criticised the decision.

He said: "This proposal would see four containerised gas-powered generators located on green belt land – 180m from a housing estate, Gorse Covert, and 220m from Risley Moss, a nature reserve with special areas of conservation and sites of special scientific interest designations.

"BTC strongly objected to the application on the grounds that it is clearly inappropriate development in our green belt.

"The Planning Inspectorate has judged that the environmental benefits of the scheme outweigh the detriment to the green belt."

Nigel Reeves, vice chairman of BTC, added: "My concerns regarding the granting of the appeal are that there is already a grid-balancing facility in Birchwood, on Trident Park, which we supported from the start as an appropriate development.

"How much local balancing is required?

"My other concern is that local opinion and local democratic controls have been flouted again, as per Preston New Road and fracking."