Wiltshire solar park faces dismantling following High Court ruling

A £10m solar park in Wiltshire may have to be dismantled after planning permission for the site was found to be unlawful by the High Court.

The 22-hectare solar farm at Broughton Gifford was completed last year but now faces an uncertain future after Mr Justice Dove quashed the site’s planning permission and requested that Wiltshire Council reconsider the application.

The permission was challenged by Daniel Gerber, owner of the nearby Grade II-listed building Gifford Hall, who claimed that he was not made aware of the development prior to construction and that Wiltshire Council had failed to consult with English Heritage before granting permission.

Justice Dove ruled that the solar park had affected nearby buildings and that both Gerber and English Heritage should have been consulted prior to permission being granted, regarding the council’s failure to do so as a “clear legal error”.

Justice Dove also said the council had failed in its duty to preserve the setting of listed buildings and criticised what he deemed to be a “flawed” environmental assessment.

"The question which needs to be answered, and which is not directly addressed anywhere in the screening opinion, is whether or not this development would be likely to have significant environmental effects,” he added.

In defence of the site, operators Norrington Solar Farm Limited and Terraform Power – the yield co of US firm SunEdison – argued that the judge should use his discretion and not quash the planning permission owing to the cost of restoring the site amounting to £1.5m due to the “uncertain” second hand market for the installed panels, adding to the £10.5m costs associated with the project’s development.

But despite agreeing that the developers would face “serious financial prejudice”, Justice Dove said that it was appropriate for planning permission to be quashed.

This story has been ammended from its original to remove material incorrectly identifying the developer of the project.