Residents in North Somerset are being asked for their views on the development of solar farms in the area by their local council.

Earlier this year, North Somerset Council issued new policy guidelines for the development of solar farms in the region and opened up the document for initial consultation throughout June and July.

After taking into account the comments received during the initial consultation, the council has now issued a revised version of the planning guidelines that considers the 55 comments that were received.

The revised guidelines focus on the siting of solar farms, placing a particular emphasis on site visibility. The document states: “Solar PV arrays should avoid areas that are undeveloped and should where possible be located on previously developed and/or contaminated and industrial land and its margins.

“A preference is given to solar PV arrays mounted on top of existing roofs, or integrated into new roofs and buildings. This can include structures above car parks, park and ride sites or at railway stations.

“Any potential ‘greenfield’ PV site should seek to complement existing development and land management around panels will be required. Agricultural uses such as sheep grazing, keeping chickens etc. are likely to be the most sustainable and effective measure. Solar PV arrays should avoid landscapes designated for their natural beauty or historic interest and sites of recognised ecological and archaeological importance.”

Locals now have until 29 August to comment on the revised guidelines. The document was issued in response to the growing appetite of solar developers to seek planning permission for solar farms in Somerset.    

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) recently issued revised planning guidance for solar farms that called on local planners to give more weight to the cumulative impact of solar farm developments on landscape and local amenity. The document also stresses the importance of topography to solar farm applications as the impact of a development can be significant for both flat and hilly areas.

The high-profile Liberal Democrat MP, Jeremy Browne, who’s constituency is in Somerset, recently hit out at the development of “ugly and brutal” solar farms in the area. The Home Office minister called the development of solar farms in the Taunton Deane area a “monstrous desecration of our natural environment”.