Fri. Jan 28th, 2022

Isle of Wight Observer News

The Island's Free Newspaper

‘No prospect’ of agreement over tidal energy centre plans

3 min read

Plans to progress the Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre (PTEC), to start generating energy from tidal power in the Solent off the south coast of the Isle of Wight, are due to go before the planning committee on Tuesday (Dec 14).

Planning staff have recommended that the onshore enabling elements, including a control room and cable installation net at Flowers Brook, Steephill Road in Ventnor, should be approved. However, it appears the current proposals could face insurmountable problems, with issues raised over the ownership and access over some of the land.

Red Squirrel Ltd, which owns land at the entrance to the site, has refused PTEC rights of access over their land to other parts of the site owned by Southern Water. They also claim that, if the application were to be approved, it would adversely affect the value of eight proposed new homes, which already have planning permission, and that engineering works needed for highway safety would need to be carried out on land they own, which they will not allow.

A planning condition that prevents the main development starting until entrance works have been completed has been suggested, but planning staff say they recognise the likelihood of such an agreement between the parties to be ‘extremely remote’. A letter from TF Planning

Consultants, on behalf of Red Squirrel Ltd, says: “There is absolutely no prospect of Red Squirrel entering into any settlement with PTEC.”

Although permission for similar works was given in 2015, it is no longer valid and permission to build homes and holiday lodges on the land has been given instead.

PTEC estimate that their proposed experimental tidal energy installation could power up to 15,700 homes; however, 50 letters have been received from the public, many of them raising objections and concerns, including one from Ventnor Town Council, who are worried about the loss of visual and recreational amenity, the proximity to houses, noise levels and disturbance of wildlife.

The planning committee must determine the application, rather than it being decided by planning staff, so that the decision is open and transparent, as the council has a minority financial interest in PTEC and owns some of the land involved.

In 2013, the council, under the leadership of Conservative, David Pugh, loaned the company £1 million pounds of taxpayers’ money, in return for a 15 per cent ‘non-dilutable’ share in the business and a seat on the board. However last September [2020], when the council was led by fellow-Tory, Dave Stewart, it was agreed that up to two-thirds of the council’s shares could be sold in order to keep the company afloat, and the seat on the board was given up along with the commitment that the loan to the council would be repaid first. The council was warned at the time that the whole project could fail if they failed to agree to the new terms proposed by the company. Both former Tory leaders lost their seats when they stood for re-election.

PTEC’s most recent accounts to the end of March 2020, filed with Companies House, show the company had debts of more than £2.5 million with just £211 cash. Its parent company Perpetuus Energy Ltd, had liabilities of more than £574,000 and only £2,207 cash in hand.