February 12, 2014

Rydon Farm Solar Park Approved by Teignbridge DC

At the Teignbridge District Council planning committee meeting held on January 13th Orta Solar's application to construct a 12 MW large scale solar PV park at Rydon Farm between Newton Abbot and Totnes was approved by 17 votes to 2. I had an online debate about some of the issues with Nick Pascoe of Orta last year, when Teignbridge's screening decision was announced. I referred to my opposition to the construction of solar farms on what the planners call "our best and most versatile agricultural land", and some of the objectors in this case used that argument too. Nick assured me that in this case:

The fields we're planning to use have topography that does not suit arable cropping

The problem is that although I think that this sort of  issue should be a valid planning consideration it looks a lot as though in practice it actually isn't. Previous applications to Teignbridge at Tedburn St. Mary and Shillingford were rejected on the grounds of "adverse visual impact". In the case of the Fulford Solar Park outside Tedburn that verdict stood even after two applications followed by two appeals to the Planning Inspectorate! In those two cases Teignbridge's Landscape Officer recommended refusal. Here's what they had to say in this case:

The proposal is acceptable subject to conditions. I consider that the impacts have been underestimated to some extent. I consider that there would be some significant effects, but that these would be limited in number and mitigated in a relatively short space of time. Overall the proposal could be accomodated within the landscape in an acceptable way.

That's why included in the minutes of the council meeting is the opinion from one of the committee members that:

There were no material considerations, nor any policy which could be sustained at appeal to refuse the application.

So there you have it. In a few months time you'll be able to turn off the Newton to Totnes road at the Two Mile Oak in the direction of Denbury to discover whether you can see (or hear!) Teignbridge's first big solar farm in operation. When that time comes do please pop back here and let us know what you think of it.

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