Plans for a gas-fired power station on a greenfield site outside Peterlee have been thrown out by councillors.
Energy firm enso Energy had applied for permission for the scheme at land between Durham Lane and the North West Industrial Estate.
A representative for the company this week told a meeting of Durham County Council’s Area Planning Committee (Central and East) that the facility, which would have been next to an existing solar-power farm, would “play an important role in delivering electricity across the UK”.
But councillors were unconvinced, with Horden’s Coun June Clark saying she was “horrified” by the proposals.
She added: “Thankfully the solar farm there now is quite well-hidden, but in my view this is going to be an eyesore for the countless number of people who travel to the coast, and we’re trying to increase the number of visitors to our heritage coast.”
A key issue for the committee members was whether it was necessary for the power station to be built on greenfield land, or if it could be based on the nearby industrial estate.
A report prepared for the meeting admitted this could be an alternative solution to housing the 20 containerised gas generator sets and 20 transformers proposed.
However, it also added this option ‘would occupy potential employment land with an automated facility that requires minimal human intervention to operate’ and thus possibly deprive the area of jobs.
But this was not enough to sway councillors.
Coun Patricia Jopling said: “I feel this site is being used for convenience.
“If we have brownfield sites that need using then this is where these applications should go.
“If people can come along and take a tablecloth of land we will have these all over County Durham and not where they need to go.”
Coun Owen Temple proposed refusing the scheme on the basis of the Easington District Local Plan (EDLP) policy on general principles of development, which is supposed to protect agricultural land.
The council’s legal officer said she was ‘nervous’ about councillors voting against the scheme solely on this reason.
Coun Temple then proposed a second motion to reject the application based on EDLP Policy 1 and 3, which includes Protection of the Countryside.
Councillors voted 9-1 to refuse permission.
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service