Deadline April 15 2015
Letter from Sophie Fearnley Whittingstall on behalf of Swanleys Solar Park Planning Application – Note: the points below provide information for an email to support the planning application. Please also see http://bit.ly/1PfiLt0
We wrote to you a few weeks ago about Secretary of State Eric Pickles’ decision to call in the Swangleys solar park planning application for a public inquiry.
Thank you for your continuing strong support for the solar park – if you have not already submitted your comments to The Planning Inspectorate please do so now. The deadline is April 15th – just a week away.
If you have already taken action, thank you – please help spread the word to like-minded supporters of renewable energy. You can also share the information in this email via Facebook and Twitter using this link: http://bit.ly/1PfiLt0
How to comment
You can do this online, by email or by post:
· Online via the planning portal (You will need to register first): http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/planning/appeals/online/search
· Email to: Peter.Kozak@pins.gsi.gov.uk
· Post to: Peter Kozak, The Planning Inspectorate, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol, BS1 6PN (3 copies are requested)
N.B. You must quote the reference: APP/X1925/V/15/3005096
The Secretary of State has requested that the Planning Inquiry focuses on two key points:
· Protecting Green Belt Land
· Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change
We would therefore like to suggest you include the following points in your representation:
Green Belt Land
While 32 solar farms have been granted planning permission in Green Belt locations, only four solar farm applications in Green Belt land have previously been referred to the SoS, none of which was called in, so the decision to call-in the solar farm was inconsistent with previous decisions.
The impact of the solar farm on Green Belt was carefully considered during the planning process, and NHDC’s planning officer concluded that “the development would not cause demonstrable harm to the openness of the Green Belt.” The planning committee followed its officer’s advice and approved the application, demonstrating they also felt the development of the solar park in the Green Belt was acceptable.
There is a shortage of brownfield development land in the area, and since the solar farm planning application was submitted, two applications for new housing on Green Belt land around Knebworth have also been submitted. However, unlike a new housing estate, a solar farm is temporary and after 25 years the land would be completely restored, reverting back to full agricultural use. Thus any encroachment on the Green Belt would be temporary and reversible.
The planning application has demonstrated, and the council has accepted, that the very special circumstances necessary to make development in the Green Belt acceptable exist.
These include the renewable energy generation and carbon reduction benefits (see below) of the solar farm. The footprint of the solar panels takes up only 5% of the land, and the maximum height of the development is 2.5m, so the landscape and visual impact, when taken with the comprehensive landscape proposals, is minimal. The proposed landscape measures are in accordance with the landscape management guidelines in the council’s landscape character assessment. The solar farm will also enhance local ecology and biodiversity.
Meeting the challenge of Climate Change
The NPPF states that to help increase the use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy, local planning authorities should recognise the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy generation from renewable or low carbon sources. However, North Hertfordshire currently lags far behind neighbouring local authorities when it comes to renewable projects.
There are only two renewable electricity generating projects operational in North Hertfordshire and two awaiting construction, totalling a maximum generating capacity of just 20.3MW. This is a very small figure that would generate sufficient renewable electricity for only a small proportion of households in the district.
The county as a whole only has 8 projects (63.7MW). This is far less than any of the neighbouring counties, even taking account of the relevant differences in land area.
Swangleys solar farm would generate sufficient renewable electricity for approximately 2,500 average homes – enough to power the equivalent of most of the homes in Knebworth.
The solar farm would also reduce carbon emissions by approximately 3,825 tonnes per year, contributing to both national and local targets as set out in the Council’s Climate Change Policy 2012: “We will work to reduce CO2 emissions in North Hertfordshire as a whole.”
Additional carbon savings arise from ‘distributed generation’ – because the solar farm would deliver a reliable source of locally-generated renewable energy directly to the Knebworth sub-station, the transmission losses of transporting energy for long distances from remote power stations would be avoided. This represents a further saving of 10 to 12% in carbon emissions.
Thanks again for your support and for standing up for renewable energy. Please help spread the word, and do let me know if you need any mmore information.
on behalf of