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Plug pulled on 'alien' Exeter power station

The Matford electricity station site (Picture courtesy: Google Street View)

Councillors say they are 'being trampled on'

The plug has been pulled on an ‘overbearing and alien’ electricity sub-station planned for the outskirts of Exeter.

Teignbridge planning committee rejected the plan unanimously despite being warned that hundreds of new homes being built around the city would rely on it.

Devon County Council and the National Grid applied to build the sub-station at Matford Home Farm to support a large housing development on the south-east of the city between Alphington and Exminster.

Existing buildings would be demolished to make way for the electricity structure.

Hundreds of properties have already been built and many more are in the pipeline, but electricity capacity in the area is not sufficient to support the full development of 2,500 homes around Matford.

The applicants wanted the new sub-station to be up and running  in 2026, providing power for homes with heat pumps instead of gas boilers, together with charging for electric vehicles.

But people living nearby raised fears over potential flooding, noise and light pollution.

Teignbridge planners were set to make a decision in January, only for their meeting to be halted by a late move by the applicants to have the secretary of state look at the issue.

This time they heard from lawyer Neil Bromwich on behalf of the National Grid, who told them suggested alternative sites at Peamoor and Marsh Barton were not feasible, the former because it would cost an extra £10 milion and cause ‘significant environmental damage', and the latter because it is on a flood plain.

Any alternative could take years to plan and deliver, he said, and by 2029 the resilience of the power network could be compromised, leading to delays in building much-needed new homes.

But Exminster Parish council objected to the plans, calling them ‘uninviting and hostile’, and Cllr Kevin Lake (Con, Kenn Valley) said the project was being ‘railroaded’ by the county council.

“The need for a future sub-station is not disputed,” he said. “But not here.”

Cllr John Parrott (Lib Dem, Kenn Valley) said he was ‘appalled’ at the county council’s attempt to have the proposal called in for scrutiny by the secretary of state which, he said, was an attempt to ‘circumvent the democratic planning process’.

He said the plan was poorly thought-out and rushed.

Cllr Suzanne Sanders (Lib Dem, Chudleigh) said: “I’m astounded. This is a gateway to a cathedral city, and I do not consider that this application enhances that gateway.

“We are being trampled on by higher authorities, and it is imperative that our voices are heard.”

After the meeting, Cllr Alan Connett (Lib Dem, Exminster and Matford) said of the planning application, which was submitted to Teignbridge by Devon County Council. "Devon threw it in the lap of Teignbridge six months after they first submitted the application to their own planning committee at County Hall!

"Devon County Council is a planning authority in its own right. They could have determined their own application if they believed it really was the right thing to do.

"However, they bottled out and, as a cuckoo puts its eggs in another nest, Devon submitted this planning application to Teignbridge Council to decide."

He concluded: "In refusing the application today, Teignbridge has rejected what would be a dreadful blot on the landscape."

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