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Safety concerns over Caley Thistle’s battery storage plans

The local community council says the Inverness site poses a potential risk to residents.

Caley Thistle says the battery storage plant can help the club's finances
Caley Thistle says the battery storage plant can help the club's finances

A new site should be found for a planned £40 million battery storage facility in Inverness due to the potential risk to nearby residents.

Inshes and Milton of Leys Community Council says the area earmarked for the development at Fairways Business Park is “totally inappropriate”.

It says it has “serious and legitimate concerns” about the plan for around 52 battery storage containers, capable of storing up to 50MW of electricity on the site, including part of a former golf course.

The community council has raised fears over previous battery storage systems (BSS) around the world.

It also wants to safeguard the Fairways site as green space.

Plan deferred for site visit

Highland Council’s south planning applications committee deferred a decision on the plans last month pending a site visit.

The project was submitted by green energy group Intelligent Land Investments (ILI), Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s main shirt sponsor.

Planning permission, land rights and grid connection agreements would be held by ICT Battery Storage Limited, wholly owned by the football club.

Profits from the facility would support the club and the community outreach programmes of The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community Development Trust.

The facility is planned near Fairways Business Park

Club chairman Ross Morrison has said it would be a “travesty” if the plan is refused.

Ahead of last month’s planning meeting he said the project could be “game-changing” for Caley Thistle. Without it the club could struggle financially.

Mr Morrison said the development would be “silent and virtually invisible” due to screening and having an acoustic fence.

But the community council says there have been serious accidents involving BSS.

One incident in Liverpool in 2020 resulted in a “toxic plume of smoke” engulfing the surrounding area and debris being blasted up to 75ft away.

“This facility had also been built near a residential area and it took the fire service 59 hours to extinguish.”

It says the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has introduced new procedures for BSS developers to follow.

Risk from toxic cloud

The community council says the Fairways site is close to residential and retail properties and upwind of two primary schools, Inshes retail park and Raigmore Hospital “placing these at risk from a toxic cloud in the event of an explosion and fire”.

It adds: “The proposed site is totally inappropriate.

“The facility should be situated either in open country or on an industrial site where any thermal runaway and fumes from a fire would be isolated.

“As the body that represents the local community, our responsibility to our community is to advocate that such facilities are planned, built and operated to the highest standards of safety, and to comply with all current and expected future recommendations regarding construction and safety.

“It is the community council’s opinion that the proposed area would not allow for the safety mitigations that are required.”

The site is inappropriate says the community council

It says it also concerned about the use of the Fairways site “in contravention of its clear identification” as green space in the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan (IMFLDP).

“By allowing a planning application for development of this green space land makes a mockery of all the time and work gone into developing this IMFLDP2 plan and provides little confidence that this plan, which takes into account the needs of our whole community, will be followed.”

The community council says it understands the potential positive impact of the proposal for Caley Thistle.

But it says the facility should be put in a more suitable and safe location.

It suggests it could be sited on land at the former Longman landfill area near the club’s stadium.

Dr Kate Macdonald, who lives nearby, says the scheme carries “significant risks” during construction and operation.

She says the 50MW capacity is the equivalent of 2,000 car batteries.

“Can you imagine 2,000 car batteries alight in Fairways – so close to houses, schools and our hospital, our main hospital for the Highlands?”

Caley Thistle have been contacted for comment.

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