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Midlands green belt solar farm approved

Words: Laura Edgar

Gedling Borough Council has granted planning permission for a four megawatt (MW) solar farm in the Nottinghamshire green belt.

The solar farm will be located near Calverton.

The application was submitted by renewables provider Earthworm Energy and planning consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP) acted on the company’s behalf.

The planning committee at the council accepted that the application constituted a “sustainable development” in the green belt.

NLP put forward the case for the economic and environmental benefits and suggested that as the site is adjacent to an existing green belt development, the Calverton Hill Care Homes, the scheme would “not contribute to any urban sprawl”.

James Cox, senior planner at NLP, said: “Solar farms are not uncommon in the UK green belt and, despite the spate of recent adverse decisions, many previous developments have been allowed on the basis of their ‘very special circumstances’.

“The ‘very special circumstances’ test sets a high bar, but by working closely with the developers, the farm owners, and officers at Gedling Borough Council we were able to provide the necessary evidence to clear this hurdle.”

The planning consultancy provided an Alternative Site assessment to demonstrate that there was no other suitable site within the local area from which the solar farm would be able to operate viably.

The site is partially bordered by mature woodland and this, said NLP, would help to reduce any adverse visual impact of 15,000 photovoltaic panels.

Cox said site-specific facts that supported the application included the proximity of the site to a National Grid connection point and that Earthworm Energy is “keen to allow the site to be used as an education resource for local schools”. The solar farm also has a temporary 25-year life span.

He added: “The development will allow the site to remain in agricultural use, with livestock able to graze the land surrounding the solar array.”

A spokesman for Daventry-based Earthworm Energy said: “We are delighted that Gedling Borough Council planning committee has granted us planning permission for this project and thank them for maintaining an objective view on what represents an appropriate development within the green belt.”

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