The secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles, has refused planning permission on appeal for a 25MW solar farm project located in Suffolk.

Pickles cited the visual impact of the proposed solar farm as a crucial reason for agreeing with the planning inspector’s decision to refuse planning permission. He noted that there would be “a major/moderate adverse impact on the landscape as perceived from the north side of the development”.

The secretary of state also cast doubts over the planned mitigation planting to reduce visual impacts, he said: “There is significant doubt that maintenance and retention of the mitigation planting could be ensured for the 25 years of the scheme on the basis that the Unilateral Undertaking and associated agreements carry little weight. This is a critical consideration because of the site’s location in an area of countryside that is of special quality.”

Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Tim Purbrick, commercial director for Hive Energy said that the company was “deeply disappointed” with the decision.

Commenting on the proposed project, Purbrick refuted the inspector’s and Pickles’ claim that the site represented an adverse addition to the landscape. He said: “It was a great site, well-screened apart from one house where we made mitigations to lessen the impact on that one particular house – which wasn’t orientated towards the solar park anyway. I think the planning inspector went on landscape and visual impact which we’re left scratching our heads about because as far as we were concerned it only affected one house.

“As far as the landscape and visual impact aspect, which were significant basis on which the inspector turned our appeal down, we thought that we were well within bounds and that we had done more than enough to mitigate the impact but clearly not enough to impress the inspector. We’re disappointed that we were unable to convince the inspector in this case – not surprisingly Mr Pickles has backed the inspector.”

Combined with the recent government u-turn on large-scale solar, Purbrick described the current outlook as “deeply worrying for the future of UK energy”.  He added: “David Cameron came into government promising ‘the greenest government ever’; halfway through this government he started talking about ‘green crap’ and now he’s turned out to be a crap green.”  

Purbrick concluded that the decision would probably draw a line under the development and that Hive Energy would most likely not make a further appeal.