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Inverness Caledonian Thistle get permission to build battery storage facility in city

By Will Clark

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Inverness Caledonian Thistle have received planning permission to build a battery storage facility. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle have received planning permission to build a battery storage facility. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle have been given planning permission to build a battery energy storage facility in the city which it says will safeguard the club's future.

Councillors on the the South Planning Applications Committee at Highland Council gave approval to the application which will be built behind Fairways Business Centre by three votes to two on Wednesday morning.

The approved proposal of a facility comprising 52 battery storage containers is claimed could power every Highland home for at least two hours saving 20,000 tons of carbon.

Caley Thistle chairman Ross Morrison said previously if approved, the project could generate seven figures and financially safeguard the future of the football club and its operations.

However, he said if it was rejected, it could have a detrimental impact on how the club would be able to function in the future.

The application was recommended for rejection by planners who said it wasn't considered that the submission has adequately justified the loss of designated open space as a result of industrial development.

Councillors went on a site visit to the proposed location of the development before attending the South Planning Applications Committee meeting on Wednesday.

They went against planners recommendations for refusal, saying while the development will result in the loss of open space, it will encourage, promote and facilitate renewable energy storage.

Inverness Millburn councillor Isabelle Mackenzie led the motion for the application to be granted saying it was important to recognise the need to increase green energy demand.

She said: "We are being encouraged to increase our green energy to help with climate emergency and net zero.

"Battery storage facilities are being recognised globally.

We are in its infancy in Highlands but it is happening across the rest of Scotland and large scale sites being given permission in central belt.

"The main part for refusal is because of an open space, but one that is on a gradient, is it a huge detrimental loss on a large area of open space?

"If we are not able to be bold and acknowledge we need to increase our energy and storage and increase housing capacity in a wider part of Inverness, we need to look at other ways of regenerating energy in the area."

Aird and Loch Ness councillor David Fraser said while it would result in the loss of green space, acknowledged the community benefit this would help Caley Thistle bring to the area.

He said: "We can't disregard the benefit of Inverness Caledonian Thistle as that is a community asset and something to be proud of and important to the city of Inverness.

"The loss of the green space looks a fairly small proportion but in a critical area where people using and has a disproportinate impact in terms of that."

Badenoch and Strathspey councillor Russell Jones also supported planning permission for the project.

He said: "I am for all forms of renewable energy, I have listened to people who feel it is in the wrong place and the arguments against that as well."

South Planning Applications Committee chairman Thomas Maclennan voted against planning permission due to the loss of green space.

He said: "It is one of the strangest applications that I have dealt with in the last 20 years.

"Public knowledge about battery storage has expanded greatly since application came before us.

"At the site visit people were asking searching and pertinent questions.

"The loss of green space is important and it was seen well used, I was there 45 minutes before the meeting started where there were dog walkers.

"It is a well used recreational piece of ground and it would be a loss to the community."

Nairn and Cawdor councillor Paul Oldham also voted against planning permission. He said while he is in favour of battery storage schemes, felt the application was in the wrong location.

He said: "I am in favour of battery storage schemes, if they are in the right location.

"The problem with this one is if it is in the right place.

"It is a well used green space, residents have pointed out this is a popular location.

"The substation will include 3km of cabling through the city and it is too close to where people live and there is a hotel close to the site.

"More houses will be built close to the site. A battery storage system in the right location with clearly defined community benefit can be a real asset. But this is not it and it is an unsuitable location."

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