Solar park supported despite lack of policy backing

Renewable energy benefits have been judged sufficient to outweigh local adverse impacts from a 50MW solar park and battery storage facility proposed on the Kent coast.

The site comprised more than 300 hectares of flat, low-lying arable farmland and marshland near the mouth of the Thames Estuary. The proposal had met strong local opposition. The secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy noted that while the application fell within the Planning Act 2008’s definition of a nationally significant infrastructure project, no national policy statement for energy infrastructure explicitly covered solar-powered electricity, so it could not rely on the presumption of need set out in respect of other types of electricity generation. However, he gave substantial weight to the project’s contribution to meeting a need for renewable energy, in line with sustainable development policy.

After taking into account mitigation of impacts on an SSSI, a special protection area and a Ramsar site providing important habitat for waterfowl, responsibility for flood defences, the safety of the battery storage facility and other relevant matters, he agreed with his examiners’ recommendation to grant development consent with modifications. He concluded that the scheme’s renewable energy benefits were significant enough to outweigh any adverse effects in respect of landscape, visual, recreational and cultural heritage impacts and temporary transport and traffic impacts.

Examiners: David Rose, Andrew Mahon, Helen Cassini; Hearing

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