The construction and operation of a solar photovoltaic farm and associated infrastructure, including inverters, substation compound, security cameras, fencing, access tracks and landscaping. As clarified by information received 26 October 2020, 11 November 2020, 1 February 2021 and 18 November 2021 and amended by drawings received 21 December 2020 and 9 February 2021.
Councillor Ian Snowdon arrived after the commencement of the presentation and discussion of this application and stood down from voting on the application.
The committee considered planning applicationP20/S3245/FUL for the construction and operation of a solar photovoltaic farm and associated infrastructure, including inverters, substation compound, security cameras, fencing, access tracks and landscaping, as clarified by information received 26 October 2020, 11 November 2020, 1 February 2021 and 18 November 2021 and amended by drawings received 21 December 2020 and 9 February 2021 at Harlesford Farm, near Tetsworth.
The planning officer reported that the application was for a solar farm on a 78 ha. site, situated 850m. from the M40 motorway. The planning officer considered that it was important for the committee to appreciate the site in context and displayed a slide depicting permitted and pending planning applications for solar farms in the area. The planning officer reported that the application was for a solar farm on a 78 ha. site, situated 850m. from the M40 motorway. The planning officer considered that it was important for the committee to appreciate the site in context and displayed a slide depicting permitted and pending planning applications for solar farms in the area. The application proposed the construction and operation of a solar photovoltaic farm and associated infrastructure. The panels would generate up to 49.99 megawatts (MW), enough to power approximately 15,000 homes. Also, the site did not fall within any areas of special designation. There was a separation of around 4.5km to the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). On reviewing the initial submission, the council’s landscape officer had raised concerns that the proposals would have an unacceptable adverse effect on the application site’s character and visual amenity, and that this would adversely affect the wider landscape. Following these comments, the applicant had amended the plans to reduce the landscape impact of the proposals.
The planning officer reported that the conservation officer had considered that he proposed development would represent less than substantial harm to Harlesford Farmhouse, a grade II the listed building andwhich was outside of the application site. The committee were shown a slide of the indicative layout of the site, depicting the public rights of way crossing the site. Of note was the Oxfordshire Way, a long-distance public right of way, which crossed the eastern edge of the site but would not be affected by the proposals. A slide was also displayed, indicating the pre-existing pylons and cables, along with low key overhead lines. A plan showing the application site in zoned areas was displayed; the zones defined where certain infrastructure would be located, with some flexibility in terms of the layout within each zone. The planning officer reported that since the publication of the agenda, all the panels in zone 14 had been removed, thereby reducing the overall impact of the proposed development. It was intended that planting around the substation would mitigate its impact and there would also be a screen along the Oxfordshire Way, to screen the development from it. Additional planting would also feature along the M40 motorway and the Haseley Brook. The amendments to the original proposals also included the addition of a new hedgerow and tree planting around the proposed substation and hedgerow planting along the access track leading to Stoke Talmage Road. The north east of the site would also have a new hedgerow planted. The existing hedgerows on the site would effectively screen much of the development. Owing to the site’s topography, only parts of the development would be viewed at any one time.
The planning officer advised the committee of the value of considering the application in the context of the surrounding area and the cumulative effect of any impact; a slide was displayed showing the site along with other similar proposals which had received planning permission, or which were pending. On 13 October 2021 the committee had given permission for the construction of a solar photovoltaic farm on land to the north west of Stoke Talmage (planning application P20/S3244/FUL). At its closest point this site was around 400m to the west of the application site.
The committee recalled that the UK Government had committed to meeting a legally binding target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The council had also declared a climate emergency, with a target to be a carbon neutral district by 2030. The proposed solar farm would help to meet national and local objectives for reducing carbon emissions and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
The committee noted that the South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035 did not identify suitable areas or specific sites for renewable or low carbon energy projects. Tetsworth Neighbourhood Development Plan also did not allocate any sites for this type of development.
The planning officer concluded by stating that in considering this application, it was a matter of the committee considering the application on its merits and balancing the benefits of the proposal against the acknowledged small level of harm which would result. The site would generate renewable energy, contribute towards reducing carbon emissions, restore landscape structure, create habitat, and increase biodiversity.
Mr. James Hartley-Bond, the architect, spoke in support of the application. A statement by Mr. Hartley-Bond, had been sent to the committee by the democratic services officer prior to the meeting.
Mrs. Sheila Stoakes, the applicant, spoke in support of the application.
Councillor Caroline Newton, the local ward councillor, spoke objecting to the application.
The committee considered that all factors being considered, including the fact that this was a temporary permission, which would return the land to agricultural use after 40 years by planning condition, and also that impact would be minimal and mitigated, coupled with the benefit that the development would assist in meeting national and local targets of limiting carbon emissions, it was considered to constitute acceptable development.
A motion moved and seconded, to grant planning permission was declared carried on being put to the vote.
RESOLVED: to grant planning permission for application P20/S3245/FUL, subject to the following conditions;
Time limits and approved plans
End of development condition