Reasonable steps taken to secure alternative solar farm site

Steps taken by a developer of a solar farm in Kent were sufficient to persuade an inspector that there were no reasonable alternatives notwithstanding the fact that the land quality was grade 2.

Of the 24ha site the majority of the land was amongst the best and most versatile, the inspector noted. The use of poorer quality land together with previously developed sites was to be preferred but the use of higher quality land was justified where the benefits outweighed the harm and where there was a lack of alternatives. The appellant had examined 40 alternative locations based on landscape, visual and other constraints and while the council was critical of the search area it was not unreasonable for the developer to take a staged approach narrowing down potential alternatives based on available information. The inspector also placed weight on the fact that the farmland, while designated grade 2, appeared in practice to be less versatile, and the benefits of generating over 11MW of electricity and mitigating climate change was given significant weight.

Inspector: Andrew Hammond; Hearing

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