Proposals for a huge solar farm in the East Devon countryside – that will provide power for 5,000 homes – have been given the green light.
District council planning committee members unanimously backed the 15MW scheme on land south of Rockbeare Hill, Marsh Green, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.
Permission will last for 40 years and, at the end of the solar farm’s, the plot will be returned to agricultural use.
Councillors heard that, while 55 per cent of the site is good-quality farmland, it is not currently used for crop production.
Sheep grazing will continue to be possible while the solar farm is in operation.
Recommending approval, East Devon District Council (EDDC) development manager Chris Rose said: “It is considered that the benefits of the scheme outweigh the temporary loss of agricultural land.”
Councillor Philip Skinner : “If we are going to drive the climate change agenda, applications like this need to be given the right weight, and renewable energy and clean energy like this is something I can get behind and support.”
Cllr Geoff Pook added that two issues that concerned him – the negative visual impact, which would be mitigated, and the loss of the agricultural land.
He said: “The loss of agricultural land is more of a concern to me, but it is not in perpetuity and there is going to be grazing on there anyway.
“I think the important thing is, with solar sites, they’ve got limited opportunity where they can be sited and they have to be somewhere, relatively close to a major substation.
“Although it’s nice, good land, there’s many more opportunities for food production than there are suitable places for solar sites.
“Personally, I’m not in favour of the industrialisation of the countryside and this is.
“I consider this sort of an industrialisation and urbanisation, but when you look at environmental concerns and the carbon neutral targets and considerations, I will be supporting it.”
Cllr Tony Woodward added: “Sometimes we have to make sacrifices, but the benefits will outweigh them and we have to make the right decision to approve this.”
West Hill and Aylesbeare ward member Cllr Jess Bailey said she was not convinced officers had drawn the correct balance between the need to retain the best quality and diverse agricultural land with the environmental benefits of the solar farm.
The committee agreed with officer recommendation and unanimously granted planning permission.