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Geoff Bullock

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Louise Braine

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December 21, 2023

DWD Win Appeal for 40 Megawatt Solar Farm in Essex

Infrastructure & Energy

DWD is pleased to have been able to support Low Carbon in securing planning permission at appeal for a 40MW solar farm located within Uttlesford District Council. Following a three-week inquiry in October 2023, the Inspector concluded that overall, the substantial weight to renewable energy generation and significant weight from Biodiversity Net Gain improvements are material considerations of sufficient weight to outweigh any identified harm. These benefits also justified allowing the appeal other than in accordance with the development plan.

Within the Appeal Decision (Linked Here), the Inspector confirmed the acceptability of using the ‘Rochdale envelope’ approach, whereby the application is considered on the maximum parameters of the scheme. The inspector recognised the need to provide flexibility in the final design of the development in light of the evolving technology involved.

The Inspector also rebutted the Council’s assertion that the proposed development would result in the unacceptable permanent loss of Best and Most Versatile Agricultural Land. Furthermore, it was agreed that it is not proportionate to conduct detailed field studies of surrounding land quality to find alternative sites. The Inspector also confirmed that there is no policy requirement to consider alternative smaller sites, multiple fragmented sites or rooftops.

Importantly, the Inspector highlighted within the decision that avaliability of a suitable grid connection is an important factor when considering the acceptability of solar proposals. The Inspector recognised that constraints on connections to the National Grid is causing significant delay in allowing projects to contribute to renewable energy goals. As a result, sites that can provide a viable grid connection represent a much-needed opportunity to quickly meet the UK’s legally binding and urgent Net Zero targets. Furthermore, the Inspector agreed that a 4km distance from a point of connection is a reasonable area to assess alternative sites given the connection difficulties that can arise as the distance from the grid connection point increases.

The Inspector also recognised the Appellant’s detailed evidence regarding the scale of the ‘need’ for renewable energy, including through solar. The Inspector confirmed that renewable energy schemes are needed even in areas where there are already solar farm developments, subject of course, to the consideration of its impacts.

DWD worked collaboratively with a great team to achieve this successful result. For more information, please contact Geoff Bullock or Louise Braine.

By Geoff Bullock and Louise Braine

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