STOCKTON North MP Alex Cunningham has said that he is ‘personally disgusted’ with the RSPB’s decision to rent out part of its Saltholme nature reserve in Stockton for a gas power station.

Mr Cunningham wrote the comments after a planning application was issued to vary conditions for a power station at land to the East of Cowpen Bewley Road in Saltholme.

It would be built on land currently frequented by curlews and lapwings and 100m from a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

This is stated in the permit application supporting information stating, The closest sensitive ecological receptor to the site is the Teesmouth & Cleveland Coast Ramsar site, Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protected Area (SPA) which is located approximately 100m to the south of the site. An assessment of ecological impacts resulting from operation of the GFGF (Gas Fired Electricity Generating Facility) has been made for the above designated sites.

His comments came as the RSPB’s commercial partner, Statera Energy, said it wants to more than double the hours the power station would operate - a move which has added to the noise concerns of local residents.

In the original planning application Statera gained permission to run it for 1,500 hours a year. It now wants to increase that to 3,500 hours a year. Statera said that would be allowed under expected changes in Environment Agency rules - changes which could also affect other power stations.

The RSPB has previously criticised similar gas 'peaking' power stations for not being 'low carbon'. However planning documents reveal that at Saltholme the RSPB has agreed to rent the land for the power station in exchange for 'significant' revenues.

Maria Shannon, a resident from Cowpen Bewley said: “It seems that money talks. If the birds had a voice then I am sure that they would not want to have this noisy, polluting power station in the middle of their homes.”

Stewart Swales, also a resident from Cowpen Bewley said: "I've always been passionate about the RSPB. The reserve in this industrial area is a jewel in the crown for Teesside. I can't understand how the RSPB agreed to this power plant - on a green space in Teesside. The birds themselves are all endangered - I can't come to terms with why a charity would want to stick a power plant on their reserve, it's just wrong in every sense."

A spokesperson from the RSPB said:“The RSPB wouldn’t allow the proposed development to go ahead if we thought it would have an impact on the local wildlife. At our Saltholme reserve, we have, with the support of landowners the Teesside Environmental Trust, created a haven for nature in the heart of one of the UK’s most industrialised areas.

"The RSPB supports calls for the UK to become net zero on carbon emissions by 2050. This is not something that can be achieved overnight, and facilities such as the one proposed for Saltholme will be important in helping the energy sector to transition, by giving short periods of generation to cover peak load periods whilst providing a modern and more efficient source of energy than large and inefficient powerplants. This is not the answer long-term, but we believe it is a step in the right direction.”