Villagers say they are shocked and disappointed after Hartlepool councillors went against their own officers’ advice to allow a power station to be built near Hart village.
Clearstone Energy has been granted planning permission for a gas-powered electricity generator on land east of Worset Lane, close to the A179 Hart bypass.
It will be housed in a building measuring about 60ft by 235ft and 25ft-high with two chimney stacks at a maximum of about 30ft.
Both Hart Parish Council and Elwick Parish Council strongly objected on the grounds of the scale of the power station and impact they say it will have on the rural setting.
Hartlepool Borough Council planning officers also urged it to be turned down due saying the development goes against the 2006 Local Plan and new Local Plan which is currently being examined by a government-appointed inspector.
They felt the development was inappropriate in the open countryside and would harm the character of the area.
But councillors on the Planning Committee voted 5-2 in favour of the development saying it will boost the economic viability of the town by producing electricity for homes and businesses.
Hart parish councillor Tom Britcliffe said: “It is hugely disappointing for the villagers.
“We can’t understand why five of the committee supported the scheme. We feel we haven’t had our voices heard.
“I’m shocked, there is so many clear planning reasons that have been overridden.”
He told the committee the development on greenfield land would industrialise the rural area and said there were many other more suitable areas in the town.
Mina West, clerk of Elwick Parish Council, added: “We are not against development per se, it is the inappropriate nature of the location of this development.
“Why do we have a Local Plan and Rural Plan if they are ridden roughshod over every time they choose?”
The committee heard the site is outside of council set development limits.
Councillor Bob Buchan voted against saying: “I think it’s an inappropriate location.”
But Coun Marjorie James said: “I believe it will improve the economic viability within Hartlepool business and residential usage.
“I believe that there are no issues around the health and safety or road usage because otherwise we would have had objections, and I believe that visual impact has been mitigated and in design it’s not much different to an agricultural shed.”
Ben Pratt, of Clearstone Energy, said the plant will provide power for over 50,000 local homes and businesses as well as the national grid.
He said it will be housed in an agricultural style building and will be hidden behind trees and fencing.
Mr Pratt added: “This plant is supported by government energy policy however the greatest benefit will be seen by households and businesses in Hartlepool.
“We have identified the optimum location for this essential infrastructure.
“This technology represents the lowest cost, lowest carbon option that will provide Hartlepool first in matters of national energy security.”
Coun Kevin Cranney spoke in favour of the application as chair of regeneration for the council.
He said it will help to meet increasing energy demand including from the council’s growth plans of 6,750 new homes over the next 15 years.
Coun Cranney said: “I believe the development will be a valuable asset, not only to the area, but the future needs of the town.
“The UK’s energy sector has not faced such a historic combination of dire problems since the 1970s.”