There have been a couple recent victories for the renewable sector which include a battery-based electrical storage scheme in the Green Belt near Wolverhampton and a solar farm covering 114 hectares granted by an Essex Council.  In a world where energy prices seem to be rising at an uncontrollable rate many would argue such schemes are needed to provide affordable, clean, energy for the population going forward.  Others may argue they are visually unacceptable and that other options should be exhausted before use of countryside sites.

So, what has been approved?  An Inspector has allowed an appeal for a battery based electrical storage scheme with associated infrastructure, together with access improvements, internal access tracks, vehicular parking, herringbone filtered drains, security measures and landscaping works following refusal by South Staffordshire Council.  The Inspector, in allowing the appeal, concluded that the proposal would be inappropriate development in the Green Belt but noted that the Framework confirms that even small-scale projects provide a valuable contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  In her judgement, the environmental benefits of the proposal and the fact that the impacts can be made acceptable, were sufficient to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt.  This is despite over 100 objections to the scheme from local residents.

The second application is a solar farm that will cover 114 hectares of agricultural land in unallocated countryside and planning officers advised that the schemes benefits, which were climate, economic and biodiversity based outweighed any negative impact.  It was approved by Uttlesford Council’s planning committee.  A section 106 agreement, a decommissioning agreement and an ecological management plan will have to be negotiated and returned to the committee, who will then have the final say.  The scheme will generate 49.9MW so is one of the largest solar farm schemes granted recently.  A council report says the farm would provide enough clean electricity to power 15,200 homes or 26,000 electric cars.

These are big decisions this month showing the importance decision makers are placing upon the benefits of such schemes.  We, as a company, have been involved in planning applications involving renewable energy from householder applications for freestanding solar PV (which would not have fell under permitted development) to a large scale (major) solar farm application currently at EIA screening stage as well as car EV charging points.

The planning system should support the transition to a low carbon future in a changing climate, taking full account of flood risk and coastal change. It should help to: shape places in ways that contribute to radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimise vulnerability and improve resilience; encourage the reuse of existing resources, including the conversion of existing buildings; and support renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure.  The Framework confirms that there is no requirement for applicants to demonstrate the overall need for renewable or low carbon energy, and recognises that even small-scale projects provide a valuable contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  It confirms that Councils should approve applications if its impacts are (or can be made) acceptable.

It is evident that our clients, and the planning system, are taking the provision of sustainable energy production, storage and use more seriously and whilst it can be a contentious topic with larger schemes it is certainly an interesting area to be involved with.  If you are planning any projects of this nature, big or small, we can help guide you in the right direction.  This includes certificates of lawfulness for proposed householder solar PV projects.  Such certificates can assist in the future sales of properties, where such infrastructure may have a lifespan longer than the current ownership, as well as offering confirmation of a proposals legality in planning terms prior to expenditure.

As always, book in for a mini-chat via the contact page or email enquiry@eldnarconsultancy.co.uk – we would love to hear from you to see if we can help!

Photo Credit: Rob Marshall Electrical Ltd (HOME | RM Electrical Ltd (robmarshallelectrical.com))