JBM Solar has had a planning appeal for a 49.9MW solar farm in Langford, Devon, successfully approved becoming “one of the first” to be greenlit under the Sunak government.
The project, which now will be developed across 61 hectares of land, will incorporate battery energy storage system (BESS) assets into the project to maximise the effectiveness of the project. The project was approved on appeal by Housing and Planning minister Lucy Frazer.
The Langford solar project had been rejected due to various concerns raised by the Mid Devon District Council which included the visual impact of the solar PV project on the “character and appearance” of the landscape, the effect on Langford Court a designated heritage asset, the effect on the loss of agricultural land, and the safety of the BESS asset.
The project will form part of JBM’s commitment to deliver a 2GW UK solar pipeline in the next three years.
“This is a very welcome appeal decision from Housing and Planning Minister Lucy Frazer, one of the first to support the deployment of a solar farm under the Sunak administration. It reinforces that planning decisions have to be made on evidence, and any local decisions unduly influenced by myths and hearsay will be overruled” said Chris Hewett, chief executive of Solar Energy UK.
One aspect of the appeal which proved pivotal is that the classification of the solar projects proposed location being situated on “at most 3B” contradicting claims by the CPRE, a countryside charity, that the land was actually 3A.
The appeal document stated: “CPRE maintained (without evidence) that much of the land is grade 3A. Based on the unchallenged evidence of the appellant, it is clear that the highest some parts of the site could aspire to is 3B – and it is most likely to be lower than that. On that basis, the loss of this land, even if it were a permanent and total loss, would not receive policy protection”.
The agricultural land classification (ALC) grades land from 1-5, with a number of subsections. Grade 1 is considered excellent quality agricultural land, best for growing fruit and salad crops for example, whilst Grade 5 is very poor quality agricultural land, suitable mainly for just permanent pasture or rough grazing.
Solar farms are not built on land considered Best and Most Versatile – that which is graded 1 to 3A – within the ALC, and instead on land that falls into Grade 3B – denoting moderate quality agricultural land – or below. As such, it does not have a significant impact on food production or security in Britain.
Commenting on the notes from the planning appeal on the use of farmlands, Hewett said: “The planning inspector’s report was right to dismiss the unwarranted and unevidenced claims that the land is high-grade farmland, when the opposite is clearly the case.
“He also noted that there is ‘nothing to demonstrate that sheep grazing would be unlikely to occur’ between the panels, again contrary to claims from one local opposition group. We are also glad to see that the consideration of an associated battery storage system focuses on the established evidence and policy, rather than accepting unfounded contention that it would pose a risk of fire.”
JBM Solar is developing two similar 49.9MW solar farms in Ashorne and Hinckley and Bosworth. The solar farms will, much like the Langford project, incorporate co-located battery storage to maximise the efficiency of the project.