West Devon solar farm given the go-ahead after appeal

A proposed installation of 13,244 ground mounted solar PV panels at Willsand in West Devon has been approved. The news follows a u-turn from West Devon Borough Council who initially rejected The Green Company’s proposal.

The 2.8MW solar farm was initially refused planning permission on the grounds that the solar installation would be “an industrial intrusion on the countryside, would be highly visible and would have an unacceptable, adverse effect on the amenity of the local community.” However, on appeal West Devon Borough Council agreed that the installation would provide a net benefit to the local community.

The 2.8MW farm will be separated into five discreet blocks of panels that will be separated by existing hedgerows. The 208 arrays will send their electricity to three transformers and will be set within a 2.4m security fence with CCTV cameras to monitor the site.

Wendy Burden, Inspector for the Planning Inspectorate, described the proposed location of the solar installation as, “gently undulating with attractive long views” but as the land has no special recognition the proposal should be allowed, later stating that: “The land is not of significant agricultural value and could continue to be used for the grazing of sheep.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) expressed its dismay at the decision to approve the solar farm. Penny Mills from the Torridge branch told the North Devon Journal that she was upset the agricultural land was deemed low value and not within any nationally recognised designated landscape. “Fifty-nine per cent of Devon land space has no special designation, particularly in north, west and mid Devon so this is a huge concern. It will encourage developers to continue to target these areas where it seems easier to get permission. The landscape is under threat from lack of special designation."

Burden concluded that: “The benefits of the proposal outweigh any harm resulting from the change, and the proposal accords with national and development plan policies.”

Large-scale solar installations are expected to pick up in the UK under the Renewables Obligation scheme. After the decrease in PV component prices and the increase in energy bills at the end of last year, more than 80MW of large-scale solar has been announced.

In August 2011 the Department of Energy and Climate Change cut the feed-in tariff rates for 5MW solar parks down to 8.5p per kilowatt hour.