PLANS for four gas-powered generators of electricity in a beauty spot got rejected by the smallest of margins by councillors against the advice of planning officers.

After more than an hour of debate, South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee voted six-to-four against a recommendation to grant permission for the land to the west of Wallingford Road and near the sewage works between the villages of Goring and South Stoke.

The site is part of Chiltern Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), and the impact on that was the biggest driver behind the call.

The proposal was for the generators to create electricity from natural gas which would then be stored in batteries connected to the grid, providing back up at times of peak demand or stress on the network to meet the need for more capacity in rural areas.

It was called in to the planning committee, a process which allows councillors to ask for their colleagues to consider a plan that would otherwise be decided by officers, by Councillor Maggie Filipova-Rivers Lib Dem from Goring, who argued against the visual impact, noise, emissions and the loss of local amenities.

She said that planning officer Andy Heron had “wrongly taken a narrow and unbalanced view” when classing the application as a minor rather than a major development.

It was a central point to the entire debate with Mr Heron describing it as “very much a matter of judgment” and that in his experience “a development of this scale would not be classed as major”.

Councillor Tim Bearder Lib Dem for Forest Hill & Holton said: “We have to use our common sense and think about what the everyman would think about this.

“Would it constitute a major application? I think building a power station in an area of outstanding natural beauty is, in most people’s books, considered a major application.”

Councillor Alexandrine Kantor Lib Dem for Wheatley said: “If this application had been on a brown field I would have been entirely in support of it because it is needed but I don’t believe there is enough reason to build it in the AONB.”

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Councillor Ian Snowdon Conservative for Didcot West, was one of the four to vote against rejection.

He said: “I am not confident enough to ignore the recommendation of officers.

“Firstly, the network operator highlights this as an area of high demand, secondly it will eventually be run on hydrogen when that comes in.

“More importantly the Chiltern Conservation Board, who are far more knowledgeable than I am, have no objections.

“We have no technical objections from any of our officers. It is difficult because this council has already approved generators in Wheatley and well over 20 generators in Didcot recently.”

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