Solar park refused due to green belt harm

A scheme for a 32.5 hectare solar park on agricultural land in the Surrey green belt has been dismissed by the secretary of state as the benefits of the scheme would not clearly outweigh the harm to the green belt and the landscape and visual amenity of the area.

The secretary of state agreed with an inspector that the proposal would harm the openness of the green belt. In terms of the economic dimension of sustainability, there would be a short term employment benefit during the construction phase but, of greater significance, a benefit to the diversification of a farm holding. However, in environmental terms the secretary of state found that there would be significant harm to the landscape and visual amenity of the area, albeit that there would be some very limited ecological enhancements. He also found that the proposal would be sustainable in terms of the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy.

While the secretary of state noted the inspector’s view that the temporary nature of the proposal weighed in its favour, the secretary of state considered that 25 years was a considerable period of time, and the proposal’s temporary nature was not a matter he had taken into account in his consideration of whether the scheme should go ahead. In this case the balance was found to be clearly against the development due to the significant weight accorded to the harm to the green belt and the character and appearance of the area. He noted that national policy advised that renewable energy proposals should be located where impacts are, or can be made, acceptable. This was not the case here and therefore the proposal was not sustainable.

Inspector: Phillip Ware; Written representations

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