CAMPAIGNERS have secured a landmark victory after an energy firm pulled the plug on its plans to build a lithium battery storage facility next to a popular riding school.

Renewables firm Apetura has backed out of a proposal to house dozens of 12-metre-long metal ‘shipping style’ containers on a 62,000 sq m site at Townhead Farm in Newarthill, North Lanarkshire.

Angry locals claimed the development - which would have been the size of a football pitch - was unsuitable for the picturesque beauty spot, with one company owner saying the development would put her out of business.

Taylor Bouke, who runs family-owned Miehaven Pony Club, feared she would have to relocate her business elsewhere if the plan went ahead - and today told how she’s ‘overjoyed’ by the company’s change of heart.

Glasgow Times: Taylor Bouke, right, and Amy Elliot (Image: Colin Mearns, Newsquest)Taylor Bouke, right, and Amy Elliot (Image: Colin Mearns, Newsquest) (Image: Colin Mearns)

She told the Glasgow Times: “I’m delighted that the company agree with the fact that it is not the right location for any type of battery storage plant.

“Myself and other protestors have been in constant communication with representatives from the firm since this plan came to light last year. I’m overjoyed that they have taken on board our concerns during their site assessments.  It’s the proper and right thing to do and I’m grateful that they have listened to us.

“So much work would need to be carried out just to level the land before anything could have been built there. It would have been a massive operation right next to a pony club that is attended by hundreds of children. I just could never really see how it ever made any sense.”

Taylor says the firm’s U-turn has lifted a weight from her shoulders.

She added: “Now, thankfully, I no longer have the stress or worry about having to move the business, which is obviously a massive relief. It’s also about protecting the green space here, which is loved and well-used by people in our community. I’m glad our campaign has won through - it just goes to show the impact of people power.”

The 23-year-old previously told the Glasgow Times that construction works around the plant could also create road safety concerns for parents with children at nearby Newarthill Primary School.

Glasgow Times: Youngsters from the local school and riding club were up in arms.Youngsters from the local school and riding club were up in arms. (Image: Colin Mearns)

She added: “The only way to get to the riding school or what was the proposed site is by going along a small access road. That would never have been suitable for HGVs. There was a real concern that massive lorries would be rumbling through areas that are always busy with children, it was never really the right location in the first place.

“The small access road is also not designed for any sort of major incident response. It is my understanding too that the land is zoned for agriculture and farming, so it was unsuitable in every way for something like this.”

Taylor praised the firm for listening to the community’s concerns.

She added: “To be fair, during assessments of the site, representatives from the firm really took time to engage with people in the community.

“We feel that our voices have been heard and our stance justified. Although the plans were only at an early stage it was still causing a lot of concern and worry for locals. Now we can get back to business.”

A spokesperson from Apetura told the Glasgow Times that they will now be ‘actively looking for more beneficial land’ for the project.

They said: “As many will be aware, a considerable amount of time and work have been undertaken by Apatura in relation to the delivery of our proposed 250MW battery energy storage system (BESS) on land at Newarthill.

 “Facilities such as this play a critical role in tackling climate change, supporting the transition towards clean green renewable energy and away from polluting fossil fuels; as well as contributing to a governmental target of net zero.

“While some positive results were achieved in Apatura’s assessment of the site, including meeting policy set out in the National Planning Framework agenda; there were several other critical areas that indicated this location to be less than suitable for a feasible financial model, especially from a project construction and delivery standpoint.”

The firm however has stressed that it is not walking away from its plan to build the plant in the wider area.  

Their spokesperson added: “Given that this development was at very early stages of assessment and development, the decision has been made by Apatura to discharge and cease development at the existing Newarthill site. We will now actively look for more beneficial land in the surrounding area to locate our renewable energy project, once again connecting to the Substation near Newhouse Industrial Estate. 

“We have taken on board all factors which arose during this process and will look to ensure that a high level of scrutiny is undertaken in terms of site selection and engagement with the community at any new future location. This will support not only the delivery of a robust renewable energy project but contribute to the public it serves.”