The Litchardon Cross site, near Barnstaple in North Devon. Image: Aura Power.

North Devon Council has unanimously approved a planning application for a 49.9MW solar farm to be developed by Aura Power.

The farm, which will be located at Litchardon Cross near Barnstaple, will be built on low-grade land that is currently only good for pasture. It will stay in agricultural use, with sheep to continue to graze around and beneath the panels.

Additionally, the development will include a number of ecological and biodiversity enhancements the company said, including wildflower meadows, new tree belts and hedgerows.

Aura submitted the planning application in July 2020, amidst a surge in activity for the solar sector following the dampened progression due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chris Featonby, UK development manager at Aura Power, said they were “very pleased” to have had the application approved, adding that the proposed solar farm will help tackle both the climate and ecological emergencies being faced, and help North Devon reach net zero.

As part of the development, Aura will set up a Community Benefit Fund of £350 per MW, index-linked, per year. This will last for the lifetime of the solar farm, and could amount to £17,500 a year for 35 years or over £612,000 in total.

“We look forward to working with the parish councils on ensuring the community benefit fund from the solar farm delivers long-lasting local benefits and educational opportunities for nearby schools,” added Featonby. “Agriculture is very important in this part of the world, and the solar farm will also enable the two families who have farmed this land for many generations to diversify and secure their farming future.”