East Devon solar farm debate not over yet

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.”

2 thoughts on “East Devon solar farm debate not over yet

  1. Councillor Davey really should not use an EDDC planning committee meeting regarding major application for a few thousand PV panels in the countryside, as a vehicle to boast about his personal “Green Credentials”. The meeting is not about the rights or wrongs of PV panels as an energy option, but should be about discussing the impact a huge PV installation could have on a rural local community.
    Personal “Virtual Signalling” such as this is not only an insult to the communities around Marsh Green, (who objected so veremently), but also discredits East Devon Council and disrespects other members of the committee.

    (he really also should not be encouraging developers to appeal against a democratic decision which will cost the ratepayers money to defend). If he does not agree with the democratic planning process each time it decides against his personal preferennces then maybe he should move on?

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    • Exactly – but whilst ‘blowing his own trumpet’ on his personal ‘green credentials’, this Green Party councillor seems to have forgotten that he should also be representing other environmentalists who live in vast swathes of our East Devon valued countryside, within numerous other small, rural communities, alongside the larger, urban areas of this district (including Exmouth, where he is ward councillor)!

      In simplistic terms, many people expect the Green Party to promote its’ core social and environmental values, by realising that the Earth’s physical resources are finite and sustainability is crucial. We depend on the diversity of the natural world for our existence, so wish our environmental concerns to be protected in this exceptionally beautiful area of the South West with the same (or, at least, equal) vigour to that being directed towards the support and promotion of the economic benefits of such large-scale developments?

      With an election on the horizon, the public will look to someone who can deliver future, fact-based green environmental goals and aspirations and not someone who recommends (when budgets are squeezed and food banks and warm spaces have become ‘the norm’ in East Devon!) that residents can purchase and plant trees in their own private gardens to screen against developers’ sky-high apartments overlooking their homes, approved by 6 supporting votes (including the two Green Party planning representatives!) to 5 votes against recently in an historic, rural community – but without securing significant onus on the developers to provide mitigation for their inappropriate tree felling and hedgerow loss!
      To many environmentalists that hardly seems like towing the Green Party line!

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