Proposals for a 12.8MW solar farm in Sandwich, Kent, have been refused planning permission by Dover District Council.

The application, submitted by Sunsave 16 (Marshborough) Ltd, would have seen 65,520 modules installed across 19.7 hectares of agricultural land, producing enough electricity to power 4,500 local homes. 

In its notification of refusal for planning permission, the council noted that: “The proposed development, by reason of its scale, prominence and urbanising impact, would appear as an incongruous and alien feature in the open countryside which would cause substantial harm to its character and appearance.”

The solar farm appears to be one of the first casualties of Department for Communities and Local Government's (DCLG) revised planning guidelines, which allowed councils to consider the ‘negative impact on the rural environment, particularly in very undulating landscapes’.

The council added: “The development would result in the loss of Grade 1 agricultural land on part of the site and it has not been demonstrated that there are no other suitably available sites at a lower grade which could accommodate this development. Furthermore it has not been demonstrated that the need for the development overrides the loss of this high quality agricultural land.”

The revised planning guidelines issued by DCLG, recommend that, “if a proposal does involve greenfield land, that it allows for continued agricultural use and/or encourages biodiversity improvements around arrays.”

In the initial application, the solar developer specified that it would sow the land between the solar arrays with a grass and wildflower mix whilst grazing the site with sheep. In addition, several kilometres of native hedgerows were to be planted which would have incorporated a number of native trees and shrubs.

In the upcoming edition of Solar Business Focus UK, Rob Shaw director of sustainability and climate change at LDA Design, explores the implications of the revised planning guidelines on large-scale solar projects.

Shaw will also be giving a talk entitled ‘Land Assessment, adaption and the challenges ahead for large-scale solar site selection’ at Solar Energy UK 2013.

Register now for Solar Energy UK 2013