Countryside charity objects to large-scale solar farm in the Green Belt

The countryside charity CPRE has criticised plans for a solar farm on a 24-hectare site on land between Marksbury and Farmborough.

As we reported in Issue 715 in February, Renewable Connections Developments Ltd have submitted a planning application to Bath & North East Somerset Council for the ‘Marksbury Plain Solar Farm’, which they say would provide a clean, renewable and sustainable form of electricity for 40 years.

Permission is being sought for the 15 megawatt (MW) ground-mounted solar farm on fields to the south of the A368 and west of A39.

Farmborough Parish Council has voiced its support for the scheme but the Avon & Bristol Group of CPRE has lodged an objection, saying the charity acknowledges that renewable energy is vital in addressing climate change but makes clear its opposition to large-scale solar farms on greenfield sites.

“The location of choice for solar developments has become valuable farmland, ignoring the 250,000 hectares of south-facing commercial roof space (enough to meet half the UK’s electricity demand) not to mention domestic roofs and surface car parks that could be harnessed with little impact on landscape , tranquillity, and cultural heritage.

“The current proposal is not just green field, it is Green Belt, which is surely the least desirable location for a large solar farm.

“The need for renewable energy does not constitute a ‘very exceptional circumstance’ which would automatically override individual and cumulative impacts on protected landscapes and farmland, especially when alternative approaches are available.”

The local branch says that the site covers a very large area and the applicant has “underestimated the visual and character impact of the development and exaggerated the effect of the mitigations proposed”.

The CPRE branch also refers to a planning application made some years ago by TGC Renewables Ltd for a solar farm at nearby Chelwood Road. Initially that plan covered 16 hectares of arable land but after B&NES Council judged that the scale was entirely inappropriate for a Green Belt setting, it was reduced to five hectares and then approved.

Meanwhile Marksbury Parish Council says it has received a mixed response from local residents to the plans for the new solar farm. “Given the size and scale of the proposed development and because it was only advertised under Farmborough on the B&NES planning portal and not Marksbury, we think a referral to the to the (B&NES) planning committee best represents the democratic process.”

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