Impact of solar farm on motorway users found acceptable

A 'glint and glare' study accompanying plans for a solar farm in the Essex green belt close to the M25 motorway has convinced an inspector that drivers would not be distracted by the 11,700 solar panels.

The study indicated that although the panels might reflect light towards northbound drivers, this would not be as bright as the glare commonly experienced from wet roads, water and headlights. It pointed out that the panels were designed to absorb rather than reflect light and that drivers would encounter light directly from the sun. The scheme would not adversely affect overall highway safety, it concluded.

The inspector saw no reason to question the technical assessment and was prepared to accept it, since the council had presented no alternative evidence. She found that the scheme involved inappropriate development in the green belt, involving loss of countryside and promoting urban sprawl. While giving this matter substantial weight, she decided that very special circumstances justified allowing the appeal.

These included the lack of any adverse landscape impact or loss of trees or hedgerows. Indeed, the inspector recognised that a management regime would increase the site's ecological value, with land between the panels sown as a wildflower meadow. The creation of a grassland habitat supporting insects, small mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles represented a significant net gain in biodiversity, she reasoned. She also held that the 2.6MW scheme would reduce carbon emissions and address climate change.

Inspector: Jessica Graham; Written representations

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