Bilsham Farm Solar Park, West Sussex
Renewable Energy Development
Client: BNRG Renewables
Services: Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, Ecological Assessment, Graphics
The Landmark Practice were instructed by BNRG Renewables to prepare and submit a planning application and supporting technical reports for the installation and operation of a 15 MW solar park with associated infrastructure and equipment on Bilsham Farm, West Sussex. The solar farm comprised the erection of solar arrays, transformers, and equipment housing, security fencing and ancillary equipment. The application also proposed new boundary landscaping and ecological enhancement measures.
As the development was a departure from the Local Plan the planning submission had to provide an evidence base for other material considerations that would outweigh this conflict, such as the need to promote economic growth and to retain employment in the District, ensuring that a presumption in favour of development applied. The planning submission established that the principle of development was acceptable in light of Local Planning Policy and especially given the support for renewable energies in the National Planning Policy Framework.
Whilst likely to have significant adverse impacts in terms of visual impact on the surrounding landscape, especially when viewed from the adjacent public rights of way, the supporting Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) identified that, with the proposed mitigation, there would be no significant visual impact as a result of the scheme. With the mitigation measures proposed in the Ecological Assessment (EcIA), the development was considered capable of being accommodated without adverse effect on ecology and the enhancement measures proposed would result in benefits to the local area.
The application was approved 13 February 2014, with all pre-commencement conditions discharged by 30 May 2014. The application’s success was due to an appropriate level of pre-application assessments being carried out to inform the scheme design and an open and regular dialogue with the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to ensure that any issues were dealt with swiftly and adequately, addressing any concerns.
A realistic and cost effective strategy to provide the client with the best opportunity of gaining a planning consent. A comprehensive approach, including early engagement with key stakeholders, an appropriate level of pre-assessments to inform scheme design and an open and regular dialogue with the LPA ensure a well-informed evidence base to support such an application, tailored to satisfy the specific requirements of the LPA and key stakeholders as a whole.