Contribution to climate change insufficient to allow solar farm in green belt

A 4.5 megawatt solar farm in the open countryside in Berkshire was refused by the secretary of state in a recovered appeal for his own decision as being inappropriate development in the green belt, despite the acknowledgement that such small-scale projects provide a valuable contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The secretary of state agreed with his inspector that the main issues related to the impact of the proposal on the green belt, the strategic gap and the countryside in general. The 10.9 hectare site comprised two fields which although well screened were still visible from the public realm. The secretary of state agreed with his inspector that the proposed solar farm would represent inappropriate development in the green belt and was harmful by definition and that it would erode the openness of the green belt and fail to safeguard the countryside from encroachment, contrary to national and local guidance. He also agreed that the proposal was not "essential" in that location. Equally, the strategic gap would be adversely affected by the introduction of built form and manmade structures.

The secretary of state disagreed with his inspector, however, over the weight to be afforded to the benefits of energy production and greenhouse gas reductions in this case - 1000 homes would be served and 2000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions offset. The inspector had afforded the benefits modest weight stating the small size of the solar farm was only going to make a small contribution to national targets. The secretary of state felt that even small scale projects can make a significant contribution and afforded the benefit greater weight. This was not sufficient, however, to outweigh the harm of the scheme to green belt objectives and the countryside in general and therefore very special circumstances did not apply.

Inspector: Cullum Parker; Written Representations

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