An East Devon councillor says he would be “surprised” if the developers of a rejected solar farm near Exeter do not lodge an appeal.
Rob Kershaw, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk
Cllr Olly Davey (Green, Exmouth Town) was commenting after the district council threw out a proposal last month that would have seen 60,000 solar panels built on farmland near Exeter. Six councillors called for the plans to be dismissed.
Among the reasons for turning down the solar site at Marsh Green were environmental damage, the visual effect on the landscape, and the location’s proximity to heritage landmarks.
Cllr Richard Lawrence (Conservative, Whimple and Rockbeare) spoke against the development which he believes will be difficult for large vehicles to access, and where flooding is frequent.
He is sceptical as to where the money would come from to restore the surrounding area to its current state after work is complete, and concerned about the funding to maintain the solar panels over the 40 years.
While the councillor says he supports the installation of solar panels, he suggests they are placed in more suitable areas.
He highlighted the new housing development in Cranbrook, with runs alongside East Devon’s local plan to create a “self-sufficient, low carbon, new town.”
“I’m not averse to solar panels, I’ve got them on the roof of my house,” explained Cllr Lawrence. “I think they perform an extremely important function. The only problem I have with it is where they’re positioned.
“I feel that there are number of brownfield sites and roofs of commercial buildings around East Devon that would be best served with the solar panels on, rather than taking up greenfield sites.
“We’re in the process of building Cranbrook, which is going to be 6,500 houses,” he added. “I know they have their own heating system – albeit it doesn’t work very well – but there’s nothing to stop them having solar panels on the rood connected to the national grid.
“There’s not a solar panel in sight in Cranbrook, which just seems a but odd to me. We continue to build new houses, but we don’t enforce solar panels on the roofs.”
Cllr Olly Davey supports the plans, arguing that “no unacceptable harm” would be caused to the area, and that every effort had been made to minimise flooding.
On that basis, he suggested that an appeal from the developer would have a strong chance of success.
“I would be very surprised if the developers didn’t put in an appeal,” he said. “They will have invested quite a lot in this already, so I would expect them to lodge an appeal, and I think they’ve probably got fair confidence that it would ger passed on appeal.”
Cllr Davey also feels that, while roofs and brownfield areas lend themselves well to solar panels, larger sites such as Marsh Green are also needed in the interests of sustainability.
“I don’t think it’s an either/or,” said Cllr Davey. “I feel that there’s an awful lot of false dichotomies that are set up; you either put them on roofs or you put them in greenfield sites. The way things are going, I think we’re going to need both.
“I absolutely support panels on roofs, I’ve got them myself. We were what we call early adopters; we’ve had our panels over 10 years now. It was one of the first things we did when we moved in.
“I would like to see solar panels on every available roof, and it’s a source of despair to me when I look at all the houses that could be absolute prime sites for solar panels, but they don’t have them.
“But the incentives aren’t there, and the interest to do it [isn’t there]. I think people don’t realise that it’s not a very disruptive thing to do, and it gives you an awful lot of free energy.”