New plans for two solar installations near Ludlow – updated

Update: 19 June 2015

Fishmore Farm. The rooftop scheme was approved under delegated powers on 7 May 2015.

Whitton. On Tuesday, the South Planning Committee unanimously rejected plans for a 4.3MW, 13,000-panel solar farm at Whitton in Cayman parish a few miles from Ludlow. Officers had recommended approval but committee members were not convinced by the arguments in the officer report. After a lengthy and lively debate, I proposed refusal, seconded by Robert Tindall, councillor for Brown Clee. Officers resisted us citing loss of best and most versatile agricultural land as a reason for refusal. Through the debate, the case officer had argued that the grading of the land is unaffected by solar installations, citing appeal cases. In my view these cases were selective and Councillor Tindall and I stuck to our guns on including loss of best and most versatile land as a ground for refusal. The committee backed us and voted unanimously to reject the scheme on the following grounds:

The development site is in close proximity to the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and would have a detrimental and visual impact upon the environment, character and landscape of the area and would result in the loss of best and most versatile land. Accordingly, the proposal would be contrary to Core Strategy Policies CS5, CS6 and CS17 and paragraph 112 of the National Planning Policy Framework whereby the adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.

Main article: 29 March 2015

Two planning applications have been submitted for very different solar installations near Ludlow. One, on the roofs of existing chicken sheds, is unlikely to be controversial. The other is a submission for a solar farm at Whitton in Caynham parish. A larger scheme on this site caused much controversy and was thrown out by the South Planning Committee last October.

Fishmore Farm, Bromfield parish (15/01255/FUL)

Corbett Farms are applying for permission to install 440 solar panels on the roofs of existing poultry sheds at Fishmore Farm.

The poultry unit is beyond the bypass and just within the AONB. The shed roofs are being refurbished and strengthened to take the solar panels. The panels will have an antireflective surface.

fishmore_farm_aerial_view unrefurbished_poultry_shed

The proposed solar photovoltaic installation is expected to generate electricity equivalent to 106,300 kWh a year, of which the site will use over 81,000 kWh (76.5%). As the current annual electricity consumption at the site is 235,000 kWh, the solar generation will help reduce the grid consumption by around 34%.

fishmore_farm_solar_installationSchematic of proposed installation

This strikes me as a good scheme. Roofs are ideal locations for solar panels and much of the power will go to power the poultry sheds.

I am somewhat concerned that the scheme is apparently going ahead before planning permission has been awarded. That’s not to be encouraged and the applicant should have got the application in earlier. But I can’t see any reason for turning down this project.

Whitton, Caynham parish (15/01238/FUL)

Last October, the South Planning Committee refused planning permission for the installation of an 8.6MW solar photovoltaic installation on the same site area as this application. The current application is half the size, 4.3MW. The application says that it includes:

Landscape and biodiversity enhancements that substantially exceed the original enhancements proposed. These amendments are made to address the concerns of the committee members who upheld the objections of local residents and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership.

Whitton_solar_farm_oldThe original (rejected) scheme

Whitton_solar_farm_newThe new scheme

As a member of the South Planning Committee, I’ll not be commenting on this application until it comes to committee.