A CONTROVERSIAL battery storage site for Chickerell is being recommended for planning approval next week – despite local opposition.

Dorset Council planning officers argue that the facility, south of Coldharbour, is in the national interest and would make a significant contribution to climate change.

It is the smaller of two sites proposed in the area – although said to be capable of storing enough power for 8per cent of Dorset’s annual needs, enough for 13,500 homes – amounting to 60MW.

Officers say there would also be a ‘biodiversity gain’ from the landscaping to the site and say it would have a limited impact on the landscape and nearby homes.

The plot, of just under a hectare, is a rectangular field between Chickerell and Southill, around 500 metres south of Coldharbour, close to the Chickerell electric substation. Until now the site has been used for grazing and raising game birds.

The layout shows two mirrored rows of five transformers and five pairs of battery units, approximately 3.5m tall; two larger transformers and a power substation. The proposal is one of two battery storage facilities being proposed in the area – the other is for a 400MW scheme to the west of the site which has been under consideration since August 2023, but is still not decided.

The battery storage is intended to take in power from the grid when excess energy is being produced, and to release it to the grid when demand is higher.

The Environment Agency originally objected to the smaller scheme, submitted in the name of Corylus Planning & Environmental Ltd, because of the risk of pollution to water sources, but this was later reversed provided an emergency plan for the site can be agreed with Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue.

Planning officers say they are confident all the conditions have been met and that, with landscaping and detailed agreement over the layout, the relatively small scheme is unlikely to have a significant impact on the area.

Weymouth Civic Society has maintained its objection to the site, warning of the risks of fire, impact on the landscape, and potential water supply pollution.

The Chickerell Action Group has questioned the need for the facility, saying the location is inappropriate with homes and schools nearby; questions the safety of battery storage facilities in general and warns of the air and water pollution which might arise if there were to be a fire. They say there is also an absence of economic and employment benefits for local people from the development.

Dorset Council say at the moment there have been more than 60 public comments on the proposal, almost all against, with none in support.

The application will be considered at a planning committee meeting at County Hall, Dorchester on Monday 4th March at 10am. It will be open to the public and should be streamed, online.

Illustrations – Site location Site layout