9-2 vote sees backing for electric vehicle charging station and electric bus depot near Leighton Buzzard

Objector describes scheme as '21st Century service station'

By Euan Duncan
Friday, 7th May 2021, 4:23 pm
Updated Friday, 7th May 2021, 4:24 pm

A green energy project close to a Bedfordshire village has been branded as "building a 21st Century service station" for electric vehicles, a meeting heard.

The description was applied by an objector to what has also been described as a "groundbreaking" scheme to help meet targets to decarbonise within Central Bedfordshire

Applicant Arnold White Estates Limited of Leighton Buzzard submitted full plans to build and operate an electric vehicle charging station and electric bus depot near Heath and Reach.

A plan of the site

The project at Garside Sands, Eastern Way, includes a parking area with electric vehicle charging equipment and solar powered canopy.

A coffee outlet and a fenced electric bus compound, with battery storage units and associated electrical equipment are also part of the proposals.

An underground cable will run to the Checkley Wood wind turbine substation, according to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council's development management committee

"The charging hub would allow for a new electric bus service for developments on Clipstone Park and Chamberlains Barn in Leighton Buzzard, and for upgrading the town's Dash Direct operation," said the report.

"The power for the hub would be provided by the Checkley Wood wind turbine and Double Arches Solar Array via a storage battery.

"The four-acre site is on restored quarry land at Checkley Wood Farm, next to the A5."

Planning officer Peter Vosper said: "Very special circumstances for development in the Green Belt may include the wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources."

Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion said: "There are a lot of quarries in the parish and around Leighton Buzzard.

"The vast majority have been returned to public use once the quarrying's been done, and to green usage, whether it's a woodland or a meadow or grazing for sheep.

"It seems there's a track record here of this not being restored, with different forms and versions of wind turbines and solar panels rather than any discussion about returning it to community access."

Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey told the committee: "We've the biggest threat to our landscape and our countryside. This is an absolutely groundbreaking step forward in renewables," she explained. "But we've terrible grid constraints in this area.

"Solar's great in the summer, just not nearly as good in the winter. You have more wind in the winter. This technology has a brilliant smart switch so it can go between wind and solar, and connects to the weather data.

"It's a really exciting project. They're bidding with the University of Warwick for innovation funds which will bring more investment into the area."

Councillor Harvey spoke as a neighbouring ward councillor and then left the meeting.

Acting as planning adviser for the applicant, John Fairley, from the agent Engena Planning Limited, said: "Our application describes the urgent need to deliver rapid charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

"This is particularly because in nine years' time it will no longer be possible to buy a petrol or diesel car or van.

"Checkley Wood is in the optimum location next to a direct green energy supply from the wind and solar, by the strategic road network and away from local populations.

"But it will be close enough for local people to charge and it will provide the electric bus service."

Councillors approved the project with nine votes in favour and two against.

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