Letter to the Editor – BESS

Being new to the beautiful Old Basing parish I was curious to learn a little more about Basing Fen.

After searching online, and by chance, I came upon a planning application for the installation of a large scale Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) – to be installed on Basing Fen. The application was approved by the Basingstoke Planning Office a few years ago, with a revised application being made more recently after some cursory changes to mitigate public safety concerns around fire and explosions.

In 2023, the Chief Officer of the IoW and Hampshire Fire Service sent an open letter to the Basingstoke Planning & Development department to strongly object to this installation on the grounds of large scale public safety and environmental damage.

He concluded:
“Due to the significant impact of fires involving BESS and the difficulties faced in controlling these fires, HIWFRS opposes the installation of these systems where the outcomes adversely impact local communities. Whilst it is accepted that planning permission has been granted by the Planning Authority, HIWFRS would strongly advise the applicant not to proceed with this development.”

I was shocked to discover that despite this objection, and as of March 2024, the installation is in progress. Furthermore, in his letter the Chief Officer states that in the event of a fire:

“The smoke plume generated by lithium-ion BESS fires can include large volumes of toxic substances such as Hydrogen Chloride, Hydrogen Fluoride and Hydrogen Cyanide. In a remote location this would not cause concern as these gases would likely be diluted to safe levels before persons become exposed to them. However, where BESS installations are located in urban or sensitive areas, this may cause serious harm to nearby vulnerable residents. It is known from previous BESS fire incidents internationally that these fires are likely to last for several days – regardless of fire service”

If you’d like to read the Chief Officers full letter, it is named: ‘H&IOW FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE’ and is available on the https://planning.basingstoke.gov.uk/ website. There are two planning applications of interest: ‘19/03097/FUL’ which was approved and ‘23/00619/ROC’ which includes adjustments to include the installation of a high perimeter fence to mitigate the spread of fire and explosion, but not toxic fumes.

Type the following shortened link into your browser to view the entire list of public documents:: https://shorturl.at/nBW17 it contains more detailed information. This shortened document link: https://shorturl.at/AGJK5 will take you directly to the Chief Officer’s public letter which I strongly encourage you to read.

If you are shocked by the continuance of this BESS installation, and appalled by the proposers decision to disregard the Chief Fire Officer’s comments about public safety, and surprised by the Basingstoke Planning & Development departments decision to approve the original application, perhaps you may want to consider raising an objection on the Basingstoke.go.uk portal: https://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/view-planning-applications

— Wayne