December 13, 2012

Tedburn St. Mary Solar PV Farm Appeal Dismissed

In some good news for those who, like me, oppose large scale solar PV parks on what assorted planning regulations refer to as "our best and most versatile agricultural land", the Planning Inspectorate have dismissed Inazin Solar's appeal against the decision of Teignbridge District Council to refuse planning permission for the 40 acre Fulford Solar Park at Gold's Cross Hill near Tedburn St. Mary.  The inspector needed to make two site visits since he:

Visited the site on 16 November, but visibility was limited by fog, and so I made another visit on 21 November 2012.

According to the inspector's report:

The main issues in this appeal are the effects of the proposed development on the character and appearance of the area, and whether the benefits of the scheme would be sufficient to outweigh any harm that might be caused.

Assessing the benefits of the scheme the inspector says that:

The appeal scheme would make a significant contribution to national renewable energy targets and to energy security, and would make a valuable contribution to the rural economy.

whilst on the debit side of the planning balance he says that:

I consider that the proposed development would, by reason of its nature, size and location, have a substantial and harmful effect on the character and appearance of the area. I find that the proposal would conflict with the underlying objectives of SP Policies CO1 and CO4, and LP Policies ENV1, ENV3 and ENV4, to conserve landscape quality, which is an aim that is broadly consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework.

When finally weighing up all the pros and cons the inspector reaches the following conclusion:

Core principles of planning set out in the NPPF include encouraging the use of renewable resources, for example by the development of RE, and recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. The NPPF also provides that the planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by, amongst other things, protecting and enhancing valued landscapes. PPS22CG recognises that the landscape and visual effects will only be one consideration to be taken into account and that these must be considered alongside the wider environmental, economic and social benefits that arise from RE projects. Significant weight should be given to the RE, GHG and economic benefits of the proposed development. It would make an important contribution to meeting RE targets. However, in my judgement, the substantial harm to the character and appearance of the area that would result from this scheme would outweigh the benefits. The adverse impacts I have identified are not acceptable and could not be made so. I find that the planning balance here falls against granting planning permission. The proposal would conflict with the development plan,
and would not accord with the NPPF when read as a whole.

So there you have it. This appeal has been dismissed, and the second planning application on the same site has also been refused by the Teignbridge DC planning committee. Next on the agenda, for those of us in Teignbridge at least, looks likely to be the planning committee meeting that considers the Bowhay Farm solar park planning application. Personally I have severe doubts about the supposed renewable energy, greenhouse gas and economic benefits of such developments. Unfortunately it looks as though the Planning Inspectorate does not share those reservations.

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