Environmental lawyers are “considering their options” after the Government overruled planning inspectors to give the go-ahead for a new gas power plant.
The Planning Inspectorate had recommended that an application by Drax Power to construct up to four new gas turbines at its site near Selby in North Yorkshire should be turned down on climate grounds.
Its report on the proposed project said the scheme was not needed to deliver energy supplies and would fail to deliver on UK efforts to cut carbon, with its impact on climate change outweighing any benefits.
But Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom has given the go-ahead for the scheme, saying there is a national need for such development and the benefits are not outweighed by potential adverse effects.
Environmental legal charity ClientEarth, which had objected to the planning application, said it is now considering its options.
ClientEarth lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said: “We’re disappointed the Secretary of State has overruled the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to recommend – quite rightly – that the UK does not need this large-scale gas plant when it has publicly committed to rapid decarbonisation.
“The UK has already green-lit more gas capacity than the Government’s own forecasts estimate will be required through to 2035.
“Approving Drax’s plant takes this to three times the Government’s estimates – risking either a carbon budget blowout, a huge stranded asset requiring propping up by the taxpayer, or a combination of the two.”
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) said the UK is going “further and faster than any other major economy” in taking action on climate change.
More than half of electricity came from low-carbon sources last year and seven million more homes will be powered by renewables as offshore wind prices hit a new low, he said.
“As we transition to net-zero emissions in 2050, natural gas can provide a reliable source of energy while our world-class renewables sector continues to grow, supported by record levels of investment.
“This development will be carbon capture-ready, which, if installed, would cut emissions at the site by over 90%.”
A spokesman for Drax said: “The project could enable Drax to deliver more reliable and flexible, high-efficiency electricity generation at its power station in North Yorkshire – helping the UK to transition to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
The new capacity could also help displace “less efficient and higher carbon-emitting power stations”, enabling further decarbonisation of the UK’s power system, and create up to 800 jobs during construction, the company said.