The Landmark Practice has secured full planning permission for a 5MW solar park at Snowdown Colliery at Aylesham in Kent. Landmark’s Environmental Planners Bernice Roberts and Gemma Melvill worked with developer BNRG Renewables and Dover District Council to bring forward the scheme, against the background of major changes in Government policy around deployment of solar PV development. Landmark ecologists and landscape architects provided technical support to the application. The scheme was recommended for approval by officers and planning permission was granted in late January with unanimous support from council members.
The successful grant of development consent for a solar park is certainly atypical of decisions since the ministerial announcement of 25 March 2015 (by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government). That statement signalled the first step in the Government pulling back from encouraging deployment of renewable energy, since confirmed by the Conservative administration by major reductions in funding to solar PV, and numerous appeal decisions refusing planning permission for field based solar. The application was supported by local MP Charlie Elphicke and, as well as managing the planning application, Bernice worked alongside Tom Brinicombe of BNRG to promote the value of the Snowdown application scheme to DECC, in response to the consultation on further Government funding cuts to solar PV.
Brownfield solar PV
The Snowdown Colliery development is an ideal use for a brownfield site where there is no likelihood of any other development coming forward in the foreseeable future. Coal mining at the colliery ceased in the late 1980s, since when no other commercially viable use has been found.
Since cessation of works a range of succesion habitats have developed and a suite of ecology surveys, including specialist lichen, bryophyte and fungi assessments was therefore undertaken to support the application scheme. The layout was driven by the need to maximise solar gain whilst avoiding identified areas of ecological interest.
The site is well screened and will be scarcely, if at all, visible from any public views. The solar farm site is well separated from existing heritage assets and there will be no harm to their setting. No highway objections were raised and the Construction Management Plan submitted with the application is framed to ensure that the development is carried out in a responsible and safe manner.
All other detailed matters are addressed through conditions.
In summary, the scheme represents one of the better locations for a solar farm that have come forward over the past few years, in that it will be able to offer all the advantages of renewable energy, without any significant environmental impacts.
Gemma Melvill, Principal Environmental Planner at the Landmark Practice said: “We’re delighted with the outcome of this application on behalf of BNRG Renewables. The proposal represents excellent use of a brownfield site to provide a modest but nonetheless valuable contribution to meeting national targets for renewable energy, and make a contribution towards the challenges of climate change.”
For further information please contact:
Bernice Roberts: Bernice.Roberts@thelandmarkpractice.com
Gemma Melvill: Gemma.Melvill@thelandmarkpractice.com