A 10MW solar farm near Abergavenny in Monmouthshire has been granted approval on appeal by the Welsh planning inspectorate.
The scheme, championed by Cardiff-based developer 3C Energy, was initially refused planning permission by the local planning committee because of the perceived visual impact of the development, despite the county council’s planning officer recommending that the application be approved.
The developer appealed the decision and during the appeal inquiry the council argued that the site used high quality agricultural land that is contrary to policy, pushing for a sequential test to assess other suitable site in the area. However, the council submitted evidence late which resulted in the adjournment of the first day.
Rejecting the council’s claim, planning inspector Clive Nield explained that the site “would not have an unacceptable adverse effect on the character of the wider landscape area or the visual amenity of the area”. Directly addressing the use of agricultural land, Nield said that “the temporary nature and reversibility of the scheme would conserve the land quality resource for future use”.
The inspector also awarded partial costs to 3C Energy as a result of the council’s late submission of evidence.
Reacting to the outcome of the appeal, Jonathan Townend managing director of 3C Energy, said: “We are very pleased with the outcome, which is an important decision for the solar energy industry in Wales. It reinforces our position that the temporary use of agricultural land to generate renewable energy while helping to sustain agricultural livelihoods is not inappropriate and that the presumption in England against using best and most versatile land for this purpose should not be automatically applied in Wales.”
The developer estimates that the solar farm will provide enough electricity to power around 2,700 local homes, negating the emission of 4,800 tonnes of CO2 a year. The site will continue to be grazed with sheep throughout the solar farm’s operational lifetime.