‘A bomb waiting to go off’: Campaign launched over plan to build energy storage farm on historic Wakefield land amid safety fears

Protesters have launched a campaign to stop plans to build an energy storage farm close to historic parkland, claiming the project would be “a bomb waiting to go off”.

By Tony Gardner
Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 9:01 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 9:03 am

More than 300 people have so far objected to a battery energy storage system (BESS) near Heath village in Wakefield.

Residents claim the proposed site poses a serious fire or explosion risk to nearby homes.

A planning application has been submitted to Wakefield Council on behalf of Harmony Energy to build on farmland in the greenbelt near to Heath Common.

Residents have started a campaign to stop an energy story facility being built on farmland close to Heath village, in Wakefield.

The company says such projects are needed to meet the “monumental challenge” of global climate change and to meet ambitious Government ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emission targets by 2050.

If successful, at least 30 container-sized units could be put in place on seven hectares of land to hold giant Lithium-Ion batteries to store wind and solar energy.

Colin Daley, of Heath Residents’ Association (HRA), said: “We are not oblivious to the energy needs of the UK and are well aware that current global events mean we have to start looking at other methods of delivering energy to our homes and businesses.

“But not here. We are but custodians of this land and we have to protect and preserve it for future generations.

Residents have started a campaign to stop an energy story facility being built on farmland close to Heath village, in Wakefield.

“The village of Heath is an historic conservation area, rich in heritage and history.

“This plan will have a detrimental impact on three Grade II Listed sites as well as the Heath Conservation Area and Heath Common.

“They should not be in populated areas but in areas with very limited population densities or open countryside.”

“This is a bomb waiting to go off.”

A planning application has been submitted to Wakefield Council on behalf of Harmony Energy to build on farmland in the greenbelt near to Heath Common.

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Access to the land would be gained at the junction of the entrance into Heath, opposite the Kings Arms pub.

Residents says up to 600 lorry journeys may be needed to build the site, presenting a hazard on narrow country lanes.

Historic listed buildings near to the proposed site boundary include Dame Mary Bolles Water Tower, Boat Yard House and The Whittling Well.

Close to 350 objections have been submitted since Friday (July 22).

Over the weekend, around 40 people took to the streets to leaflet residents of Heath, Warmfield, the travellers’ site near to Doncaster Road and the City Fields residential development.

An ‘I Love Heath Common’ Facebook page has also been created to raise awareness.

There have been explosions in the UK and abroad linked to energy storage farms, including a fire at a site in Liverpool 12 months ago.

A report, by leading physicist Professor Sir David Melville, states: “It transpires that even for the Liverpool incident in a relatively small BESS, the fire suppression measures were ineffective, the Fire and Rescue Service were inadequately informed and prepared, and a serious fire and large explosion took place which could have resulted in serious injury or death.”

California has already introduced new legislation insisting that all BESS are located at least one mile away from residents.

Harmony Energy said there would be no construction traffic through Heath village and it would have a ‘low’ impact on the conservation area.

A statement from the company said: “We are conscientious of the loss of green space, and whilst this happens to be the loss of part of an intensively farmed field, in its place, we are proposing to plant 4.4 hectares of species-rich grassland and new woodland, providing a biodiversity net gain of 141.34 per cent, over and above the current ecological value of the farm field.

“This will provide a significant benefit to local wildlife.”

“Whilst we cannot comment on the specifics of the Liverpool fire, this is an extremely rare event and all battery technology is rigorously fire tested and monitored.

“We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this in more detail with Heath Residents’ Association.

“Battery sites are required to be sited next door to substations and the Wakefield B substation next to our proposal has spare capacity to accommodate it, thus enabling a vitally important contribution towards reducing our carbon emissions.

“There has never been a more pressing time to act quickly concerning energy security and combating rising temperatures, and we hope that the substantial benefits of the scheme, including; habitat creation, energy security, reduction of carbon emissions, business rates totalling over £150k per annum and a £10k per annum community benefit fund for the project’s operational lifespan, are realised.”

Bronwen Knight, Wakefield Council’s Service Director for Planning, Transportation and Strategic Highways, said: “The application will be advertised by site notice and in the local newspaper by the end of this week.

“It will be considered in line with local and national planning application guidance.”