August 22, 2014
Floodgates open to solar farm "monstrosities"?
According to today's edition of the Western Morning News:
Planning Minister Kris Hopkins has revealed he will not “call in” plans for 45,000 solar panels to be build at Coombeshead Farm, Diptford, South Devon.
The decision has angered Sarah Wollaston, MP for the area that has been targeted by a series of solar proposals, who said the Government’s promise to offer greater protection to rural areas from “monstrosities” was now “in limbo”.
The Tory MP for Totnes added the move “opened the floodgates” to developers.
Whether this is how things actually pan out in practice remains to be seen, since Western Power Distribution's electricity distribution network is already full to capacity across most of South West England. For the present at least, the WMN continues by pointing out that:
South Hams District Council, the planning authority in charge, approved proposals on the 58-acre parcel of land in May, but planning permission was not to be granted until the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) had run the rule over the plan.
Dr Wollaston said: “I am dismayed that the Secretary of State has failed to call in the planning application for yet another vast solar array near Diptford In my opinion it is simply not good enough to pass the buck to the district council. The question was whether this was ‘cumulative impact’. It now opens the floodgates. As I have raised with DCLG before, district government approves these monstrosities partly because of massive cost of appeals and penalties. What was needed was a clarification of whether this constituted ‘cumulative impact on landscape’; an important principle is now left in limbo.”
On her own web site Sarah Wollaston reproduces Kris Hopkins' letters to herself and South Hams DC in full:
I was very disappointed when I received the following correspondence from Kris Hopkins, Minister for Local Government to tell me that the Secretary of State has decided not to call in the Coombeshead Solar Farm application.
Thank you for your letter of 8 May requesting the Secretary of State to call in the above planning application.
We remain committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believe that planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible. The call-in policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively.
In deciding whether to call in this application, I have considered my policy on calling in planning applications. This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead me to conclude, in my opinion that the application should be called in. I am satisfied that the application should be determined at local level.
I appreciate that this is not the preferred outcome for you and your constituents. However, it is now for South Hams District Council to determine the application and a copy of our letter to the Council is attached for your information.
The following is a copy of the letter sent to South Hams District Council.
Town and Country Planning Act 1990
Application for the installation of up to 45,000 ground mounted solar pv panels, erection of ancillary buildings and structures and access tracks at Coombeshead Farm, Diptford, nr Totnes, Devon.
I refer to the above application.
The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against call-in policy, as set out in the Written Ministerial Statement by Nick Boles on 26th October 2012. The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively. The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
In deciding whether to call in this application, the Secretary of State has considered his policy on calling in planning applications. This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead him to conclude, in his opinion that the application should be called in. The Secretary of State has decided, having had regard to this policy, not to call in this application. He is content that it should be determined by South Hams District Council.
In considering whether to exercise the discretion to call in this application, the Secretary of State has not considered the matter of whether this application is EIA Development for the purpose of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011. South Hams District Council is responsible for considering whether these Regulations apply to this proposed development and, if so, for ensuring that the requirements of the Regulations are complied with.
In conclusion according to the Western Morning News once again:
No-one from London-based developer AEE Renewables was available for comment.
and there is no new news bulletin on the Coombeshead Solar web site as yet either. However AEE are presumably very pleased with this outcome!
Filed under Renewables by