Towerbrook Solar Park, North Somerset
Renewable Energy Development
Services: Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, Landscape & Ecology Management Plan
With ambitious and legally binding carbon reduction targets to meet, the number of UK facilities generating electricity from solar panels has boomed in recent years. The Landmark Practice provided both landscape and ecology services to New Energy to inform their planning application for a solar park at Towerbrook in North Somerset.
Towerbrook solar park is located on farmland close to a range of designated sites, including the ‘North Somerset & Mendip Bats’ Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Key to maximising the chance of planning permission being granted was to ensure that potentially negative impacts on these sites were avoided or fully mitigated.
A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal recommended the need for a detailed bat assessment (informed by bat activity surveys) to be undertaken. This was presented to the LPA and Natural England and, along with scheme design modifications and creation of enhanced bat foraging areas, allowed them to screen out potential significant impacts on the SAC. Discussions with the LPA’s landscape officer led to the planting of new hedgerows and trees which served to mitigate any significant landscape and visual impacts. Evidence provided by The Landmark Practice was used to prove that implied impacts on the AONB were unfounded.
Both landscape and ecological measures were detailed and secured through the production of a Landscape & Ecological Management Plan for the site. This was produced collaboratively by The Landmark Practice’s ecologists and landscape architects to provide maximum benefit to the site’s biodiversity whilst effectively screening the site from outside views. Landmark has been retained to undertake ongoing ecological monitoring during the operation of the site.
Despite the site being located in a sensitive landscape with potentially significant environmental constraints, the development was successfully granted planning permission. The Landmark Practice’s professional team was able to inform effective scheme design changes, whilst designing bespoke ecological enhancements that should, in coming years, increase the value of the site to local wildlife.