Monday, 23 March 2015

Planning decision a science lesson for solar farm developers

If you’re a solar farm developer struggling to get your application approved, you could learn an interesting lesson from a planning case involving the Science Museum.

Despite being opposed by English Heritage, Natural England and the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Unit, the Science Museum in partnership with Swindon Commercial Services – an independent organisation owned by Swindon Borough Council – has secured consent for a 41MW solar farm.

The site at Wroughton Airfield, within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Wiltshire, was granted permission after Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State, ruled that exceptional circumstances existed to justify the approval.

The scheme successfully ticked a number of important boxes in the NPPF, namely its contribution to achieving the UK’s renewable energy target; assisting in alleviating climate change; and contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Interestingly, it was also agreed the scheme was important to the museum’s efforts to raise income to preserve items of national importance – meaning the development was in the national interest.

So, if you’re a solar farm developer looking to establish the same principle you might want to consider knocking on the door of the Archbishop of Canterbury or Rochester Cathedral, or visiting the offices of Chatham Historic Dockyard – agree a deal to help preserve their nationally important building and you get a positive result to your application.

Just a thought.

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