Plans for a power plant at Old Hutton have been thrown out for a second time.

After hours of passionate argument from residents, South Lakeland District Council’s planning committee rejected a revised scheme on Friday.

London-based applicants Statera Energy Limited had tabled modified plans for a 49.9MW gas-powered electricity generating plant and associated infrastructure after an earlier project was turned down in January.

SLDC planning officers recommended the new application be granted because there were no objections from statutory consultees.

But it drew hundreds of complaints from residents horrified by plans to site it on a 3.9 hectare field near the existing Old Hutton substation.

The council chamber in Kendal had to be reconfigured for more than 30 residents to speak.

Council planning officer Mike Hall told the meeting the plant could power up to 50,000 homes.

“For the majority of the time the plant will be switched off, awaiting instruction from the National Grid to start generating,” said Mr Hall. “It is not intended to run for long periods of time.”

The development required four external flues. Instead of 15m tall, these had been reduced to 12m to obscure them from view, he said.

Westmorland MP Tim Farron said the chimneys had been reduced to the “minimum safe height” for the dispersal of fumes.

Mr Farron said: “To seek to win round the committee, the developer has drastically reduced the height of these chimneys but in doing so they are radically increasing the threat to public health.”

Helen Loney, a parent and school governor at Old Hutton Primary School, said the plant would be 800m away from a school ranked “outstanding” by Ofsted.

“No parent will want to send their child to a school near a power station that produces nitrogen dioxide. This will kill the school, the pre-school and the village,” she said.

Anne Winders, for Middleshaw Flood Action Group, said the community faced six months of major disruption during the building of the plant which would require an estimated 80 vehicles per day.

“If permission is granted today, it opens the door to a further application,” she said.

Dave Nelson, a former major in the British Army, said the roads were unsuitable for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, yet a 65-tonne crane was needed for the construction work.

“When in Afghanistan, despite it being a war zone, I would have been prevented from exercising such a flagrant and wanton disregard for public safety and damage to property,” he said.

“This is South Lakeland, not Helmand Province.”

Objector Kate Waddington said: “You are our elected representatives and you are our voice. We ask you to find a way to reject this application which is riddled with assumptions, errors and contradictions.”

Resident Jamie Normington, who works for Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said hedgerows would be “desecrated” – destroying havens for butterflies, birds, hedgehogs and rare birds.

Mrs Ann Airey said she farmed 100 acres in the area and United Utilities was also coming through with new pipework – putting 90 cars on her land and 14 shipping containers.

Mrs Airey said the substation had suffered a previous explosion. “I consider the new structure to be too big and unsafe,” she said.

Matthew Hard, a consultant with Indigo Planning, spoke in favour. “The carbon savings against the older, slower technology is equivalent to at least 10,000 cars being removed from our roads every year,” he said.

“This cannot be installed anywhere. Potential sites essentially need connection to both gas and electricity networks and there are few locations in the country where this is possible.”

Carl Crompton, a director of Gilkes in Kendal, said they had agreed a contract to provide a range of services to the plant which would support local jobs.

“Some of the objections claim there are no benefits to local people but this simply isn’t true.”

Planning committee member Michael Cornah (Con, Cartmel) said: “My heart would like to find a planning reason for refusal, but my head with a planning hat on, cannot find a material reason.”

The council’s solicitor Anthea Lowe warned the committee the authority could face a costly appeal if it refused the application.

“I have to give this warning, and I know it might be unpalatable for members of the public to hear it, but we could be facing a costs award of upwards of £50,000 of taxpayers’ money,” she said.

David Williams (Con, Bowness and Levens) said: “We will fail on appeal, I’m sorry we will.”

Robin Ashcroft (Lib Dem, Grange) said: “I don’t take the view that experts should be ignored lightly but I feel this would have a major impact. It’s not been proved to me that the benefits of this project could not be found elsewhere.”

The committee voted five votes in favour and five against with one abstention – locking the decision. In a dramatic twist, chairman Pete McSweeney (Lib Dem, Arnside and Milnthorpe) used his casting vote to defeat the plans.

It sparked shouts of “yes” and a round of applause from the public.

Cabinet member Philip Dixon (Lib Dem, Kendal Town) proposed it was rejected on the grounds of landscape impact.

It would introduce a “very substantial development of predominantly urban character into the open countryside by virtue of its scale, design and appearance,” he said.

Chris Nelson, chairman of Old Hutton Action Group, said residents were ecstatic.

“It was a nail biting finish and we are hugely grateful to the council for supporting us in our opposition.”

Mr Nelson conceded that the battle was not over and that the applicants are strongly expected to appeal. “We will continue to oppose this in any of its forms.”

Statera Energy Limited was approached for a comment but had not responded at the time of going to press.