The outcome of Lightrock’s appeal against HDC’s refusal for a Solar Array was published on 27 June. The scheme will now go ahead, subject to conditions.
Decision – The main issue in the appeal was the effect of the development on, and potential loss of, agricultural land.
Whilst recognising that land classification is a matter of judgement by experts, the independent inspector concluded that most of the site is not ‘Best & Most Versatile’ land. Moreover, even if it was, the land would not be ‘lost’, and neither the Local Plan nor National Policy prevents the use of such land. Nor are there any suitable alternative lower grade sites. The inspector states that the specific way agricultural land is used is not subject to planning controls. The fact that the proposal limits arable farming, does not mean that it results in the loss of land, when it can still be used for other purposes, grazing of sheep, or even left fallow (which is encouraged by current government schemes), whilst also being used to produce solar energy.
The Appeal Decision also states that the proposed development would not be detrimental to the nation’s food security. It further states that any adverse impact on the countryside would be limited to a localised area, which could be effectively mitigated. It notes that the site has an immediate connection to the nearby substation, and the development would be a valuable contribution to achieving renewable energy goals, as well as achieving biodiversity net gains.
Costs – Although parties normally cover their own expenses in planning appeals, full costs were awarded to Lightrock because HDC acted unreasonably and failed to produce evidence to support the scheme’s refusal, thereby delaying a plan that should have been permitted.
Responses – SPC response to the decision is covered overleaf in the Parish Council’s Column. Chris Sowerbutts (Lightrock) said, “We understand this is not the outcome that everyone in the village was hoping for, but we do hope to be able to move forward constructively to ensure the delivery of a high quality project with a minimum of disruption to village life. We remain in favour of a community benefit fund and positive community impact.”
Full versions of the Appeal and Cost Decisions can be accessed online at www.northyorks.gov.uk – Editor.