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Giant solar array at Aylesbeare gets the green light

Tuesday, 12 November 2013 4 Comments by Claire

A huge solar panel array planning application for land between Aylesbeare and Marsh Green was today, given the green light by EDDC’s planning committee.

Four residents spoke against the 55 acre application, at Great Houndbeare Farm, including the vice-chair of Aylesbeare Parish Council, Cllr John Ayres and vice-chair of Rockbeare Parish Council, Cllr David Mason.

John Ayres said that the community had to “carry the burden” of the “vast proposal” without any community benefit. He asked what price the development management committee would put on that burden.

Cllr David Mason was concerned about the impact of water run-off on Marsh Green, given that it already has a flooding problem. He said he was concerned that a proper flood risk assessment had not been carried out.

He asked that the application be deferred while a flood risk assessment be carried out.

Mrs Cahart in North Cottage was very worried about the effect of 16, 40 feet long 40 tonne lorries on her cob built cottage, which is right on the tiny Great Houndbeare access farm track, which would be the access into the five fields.

These lorries would thunder past her cottage, inches from her windows.

Mrs Cahart had telephoned developer, Cherry Solar, about her plight and to ask for them to pay for structural surveys, but her call had not been returned.

Mrs Hatswell who also lived on the access track, said that she and her family had farmed the land for 40 years and the land was good food producing land for all that time. “We fed the nation,” she said.

She added that the soil was clay and water would run off it easily and down the hill to Marsh Green.

I explained that I could only speak on behalf of Aylesbeare residents as this was my ward. I added that water run-off was a valid issue and I hoped that Marsh Green residents would get answers on this.

I expressed concern over the size and scale of the application, it was basically an industrial application in a rural idyll, especially when taking into account the 2.4m high metal fencing and 36 security cameras. I emphasised that the land was obviously fertile and productive and said that there should be community benefit on an application of this size.

I asked that the developer pay for the structural surveys for North Cottage and that a condition be applied on this.  But planning officers said that this was an issue between the developer and the resident concerned.

The planning committee chewed the application for some time. Most councillors didn’t like it and thought it was too big, with too many similar applications springing up far too often.  The difficulty was that none of the key consultees, including highways, Natural England, the Environment Agency, Exeter Airport etc, had objected, so establishing reasons for refusal that would stand up at appeal was tricky.

A bid by Cllr Tony Howard for refusal was voted down on the basis that his reasons could not be sustained at an appeal, because these consultees had not objected.

The application was then approved.

Comments

1. At 06:22 pm on 12th Nov John Sheaves wrote:

Well - this was rather inevitable really!!  I also find it disturbing that our planning authority rely on agencies like Highways (who wouldn’t object anyway because there are no highway issues once the array has been built!), Natural England and The Environment Agency ( who clearly are so confused about the need for sustainable power generation v development impact in rural areas and who don’t like farming anyway!) and Exeter Airport (who wouldn’t be worried in any case because the array would not be angled in any way as to affect the flight path!).  Do we not have anyone capable of providing an unbiased assessment so that planners are adequately informed of all the issues - economic, environmental and social, before they make a decision?

2. At 08:08 pm on 12th Nov Carhart wrote:

I am devastated that this planning application has been approved. Due to the rules I could only object on the impact on my property which I did and yet it was not enough. It appeared the councillors did not even take this into consideration. As long as HIghways and the Airport were happy there was nothing else to consider.
I did state I had hoped anyone making the decision on this application would have visited the lane to see what I was trying to convey.  I very much doubt any of them did.  If they had I believe the outcome would have been different.
There is to be over 500, 40 tonne, 40 foot lorries passing between my cottage and garage which sits opposite, both of cob construction with no foundations so there is bound to be damage caused by the vibrations from the heavy traffic as the council owned lane is only 7’ wide and is little more than a tarmac’d farm track. The lane and the ditch that runs alongside which is constantly being flattened by farm machinery, is very rarely maintained by the council. I have now given up digging it out when it is not my job!
The suggestion I approach Cherry Solar Ltd with a view to paying for surveys before and after to assess any damage now seems pointless. Although I did contact them yesterday and was advised the Operations Director would get back to me. He never did. It was stated that the firm were only set up in the last 12 months for this project and have no assets. There is no stipulation that they have to do anything more than carry right on with the construction. There is no requirement for them to have any duty of care to my property. So why would they. Nothing can stop them now.  Highways are just happy they have promised to put traffic lights on the Oak road junction!
As a band E council tax payer, I feel I have been very badly let down today.

3. At 08:48 am on 13th Nov Cllr Tony Howard wrote:

My attempt for refusal at the DMC meeting was on two main issues:
1) The preservation of agricultural land.
2) Aircraft safety
In this case, Exeter & Devon Airport Ltd in one part of their report stated, ‘This proposal has been examined from an Aerodrome Safeguarding aspect and does appear to conflict with safeguarding criteria’ I attached considerable weight to this comment but the officers argued otherwise.
I supplemented my comment by adding the likely negative impact on tourists as they view our lovely green landscape covered in solar panels likening it to an industrial urban area.
The bottom line is the officers shortened the debate by referring to the NPPF as our guideline on renewable energy, thus effectively removing our judgement on such a crucial local environment issue.
Other attempts to take into account the cumulative effect of all local solar farms was not picked up in the debate.
This has been a sad result for the Ottery St Mary Rural ward and for the beautiful area of East Devon. We will regret the ill considered decision.

4. At 02:06 pm on 13th Nov Sandra Semple wrote:

Councillor Howard is being a little naive about councillors not being able to discuss the matter because of the NPPF.

The reason they are cut out from decision-making is because EDDC does not have a Local Plan or a 5/6 year land supply - thanks to its own mismanagement.

Had both of these been satisfactorily sorted (as could have happened 2-3 years ago had not the Local Development Framework Panel been in hock to the East Devon Business Forum, councillors would now be back in control of our district’s destiny.

There are many, many decisions that will be sad results for all areas of this beautiful district and his party must take all the blame for the situation.

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