Published: 06:00, 29 May 2020
| Updated: 15:39, 29 May 2020
Controversial plans to build a hydrogen fuel plant on a rundown plot of land look set to be given the green light - despite more than 160 objections from concerned residents.
Canterbury City Council was inundated with letters from locals - with one even worried about a Fukushima-style disaster - after a bid to construct the plant in Westbrook Lane, Herne Bay, was revealed in January.
But developer Ryse Hydrogen Ltd has previously defended its proposals, insisting that the facility will comply with the highest safety levels.
And now planners from the local authority have recommended the scheme be given the go-ahead by councillors at Tuesday’s (June 2) planning committee meeting.
Their report reads: “The proposal would result in a degree of harm to the protected green gap and a degree of harm to the wider landscape and biodiversity.
“The residual harm of the proposal needs to be balanced against the economic and environmental benefits of the development.
“In this case the significant benefits of creating a low-carbon energy source and the associated economic development, including job creation, are considered to outweigh the residual harm.”
The report says the scheme is expected to create up to 20 jobs.
Ryse plans for the fuel made at the factory to be used to power London buses, before eventually supplying transport providers in Kent.
However, fliers were put through the doors of homes in the area suggesting residents oppose the application for safety and traffic reasons.
It also noted the proposed development will be situated near to Hampton Primary School and asks if it could reduce property prices in the area.
Writing on the city council’s planning website, opponent Neil Wallace argues: “This will only damage Herne Bay with limited benefit for the residents of Herne Bay and Whitstable.
“This application is also on a flood plain. What are the safety devices or do we face a Japanese-style Fukushima disaster?”
Following a major earthquake in Japan in 2011, a 15-metre tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.
The Environment Agency and Kent County Council’s highways department have not objected to the proposals.
The city council officers’ report adds: “With regards to the process in which the hydrogen is created, water is taken and broken down into hydrogen and oxygen.
“The hydrogen is collected with the by-product (oxygen) released into the atmosphere.
“The electrolysis process has a number of safety feedback features which are all focused on the safe operation of the plant.
“These include auto shut-off responses to changes in oxygen levels and also changes in the flow transmitter. It is noted that the health and safety executive chose not to comment on the proposal.”
The scheme has received the backing of Greenhill councillor Dan Watkins and Herne Bay MP Sir Roger Gale.
The latter said in a missive sent to the local authority: “Given the benefits and positive environmental impact this application could bring to Herne Bay, Canterbury and the surrounding area, I am fully supportive of the proposals.”
The three-acre plot, which neighbours the town’s household waste recycling centre, was an isolation hospital between 1904 and 1939 and was most recently home to Herne Bay BMX Park.
Ryse will connect the plant to a substation - located less than a kilometre from the site - in order for the facility to be powered by energy from the Kentish Flats offshore wind farm.
Councillors voted in September to approve proposals for the local authority to lease the site to Ryse for 35 years.