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Battery energy storage and fire safety – what’s changed in the new planning guidelines for renewables?

The UK government has updated its Planning Policy Guidance on renewables to include a section on the development of battery energy storage systems (BESS) with specific regards to fire safety. Louise Leyland, associate at PWA Planning, takes a look at what’s changed and what it means for developers.

The guidance has been put in place to help local councils determine planning applications for BESS developments where fire safety is increasingly raised as an issue.

This follows the publication of guidance by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) on the safety features and considerations they expect to see on BESS developments in open air environments.

Here we take a look at what’s changed and how it could affect developers seeking planning approval in the future.

What’s changed?

 Up until these recent updates, fire safety has largely been dealt with outside of the planning process. The new guidance encourages:

  • Applicants to engage with local fire services at the pre-application stage.
  • Local planning authority (LPA) to formally consult with the local fire service as part of the planning process.
  • LPA to consider the NFCC guidance when determining applications.

This is to ensure that the fire and rescue services are given the opportunity to provide their views before an application is made.

Location, location, location

The location of BESS developments will also be important to fire and rescue services, who will consider access and firefighting facilities in their risk assessments.

The key design points for fire safety when considering an application will be:

  • Two points of access to a BESS compound.
  • Adequate hard standing space to accommodate fire service vehicles.
  • Sufficient water sources available to tackle a fire if needed, which may require onsite water storage.

Planning for the future

 Planning plays an integral role in the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy infrastructure. The updated guidance highlights the importance of making sure the UK has a secure energy supply, and how BESS developments can assist in de-carbonising our energy system cost-effectively.

We would encourage all developers seeking planning permission for BESS developments to familiarise themselves with the updated planning policy guidelines, the guidance by the NFCC and the requirements set out in the Town and Country Planning Order 2015, before submitting an application.

If you would like any advice or support with your BESS development planning application, you can speak to our energy storage planning team today on 01772 369 669.



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