60-hectare solar farm in Worcestershire given go-ahead

Plans for a 60-hectare solar farm on farmland in Worcestershire have been approved after planners concluded that the scheme's negative impacts were outweighed by environmental and economic benefits.

Solar: 60-hectare scheme approved
Solar: 60-hectare scheme approved

The development, proposed for Defford Airdrome, Besford, was given the green light by members of Wychavon District Council’s planning committee, following the advice of planning officers.

The application, submitted by developer Solar Planning, proposed that the development, involving 120,000 solar panels, would be in place for 25 years and could generate up to 41MW of electricity.

According to a report by officers, the site is a former RAF airfield now considered to be open countryside.

The report said 30 objections had been received listing concerns about the scheme’s size, the use of agricultural land, and the visual impact.

The Ramblers Association also objected because it felt the site was "inappropriate for development" and "the arrays of panels will be so prominent in the landscape and are incapable of adequate screening".           

Officers said that there would be "limited and temporary" visual harm caused to a nearby Grade 1 listed National Trust property Croome Park as well as a Grade II* listed church in Besford.

The report said there would be "visual intrusion of the solar arrays" on Croome Park but this would reduce over time "as landscape mitigation matures".

The proposal "could be made acceptable" through implementation of a "landscape mitigation plan" involving growing new hedgerows and grasslands.

According to the report, the government’s Planning Practice Guidance states that large solar farms should be focused on previously-developed and non-agricultural land.

But officers said they were unable to identify a suitable alternative brownfield site, adding: "As such the applicants have shown it is necessary to develop on agricultural land to develop a large scale solar farm."

Officers found the scheme would have "environment advantages" and "significant economic benefits".

The report concluded: "Overall, it is felt that the harmful impacts of the proposal are not of such significance to demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the scheme.

"The proposal therefore represents sustainable development and is in line with advice in the [National Planning Policy Framework] and officers recommend approval."           

In a statement, the planning committee said: "We feel this solar farm, after being reduced in scale, is now an appropriate development on the proposed site.

"We have secured reassurances about suitable screening and we feel that the development fits in with the council’s strong environment priority to reduce energy consumption and increase the generation of energy from renewable sources."

The officers’ report can be found here.

john.geoghegan@haymarket.com


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