Saturday, 2 April 2016

Secretary of State Overrules Appeal Inspector's Recommendation and Turns Down An Application for 5 Megawatt Solar Array in New Forest National Park

The NFA rigorously opposed the original application for an array in Vaggs Lane Hordle believing that this solar array would be a landscape spoiler, that it would be an inefficient use of the precious land of this National Park and that particular protection is needed for this corner of the Park nearest to the Bournemouth/Poole built up area. The application was refused by the National Park Authority. It was then appealed and the inspector recommended that the appeal be allowed. The appeal was recovered for the Secretary of State "because the appeal site lies within the New Forest National Park and he wishes to consider himself whether or not the development proposal would have any impact on the National Park." The Secretary of State disagreed with the Inspector’s recommendation and dismissed the appeal.

The full report may be found at: - with conclusions summarised in paragraphs 21 to 23:-

Overall balance and conclusions
21.The Secretary of State concludes that, as the appeal scheme conflicts with CSDM Policies CP4 and CP5, it cannot be regarded as being in accordance with the development plan; and he is satisfied that, in accordance with paragraph 215 of the Framework, the relevant CSDM policies can be given full weight as being consistent with the Framework. Hence, in accordance with section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, he has gone on to consider whether there are sufficient material considerations to indicate that the appeal should nevertheless be determined otherwise than in accordance with the development plan.

22.With regard to the material considerations in favour of the scheme, the Secretary of State gives substantial weight to the contribution the scheme would make to the Government’s commitment to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and helping to improve the security of energy supply. He also gives moderate weight to the bio-diversity benefits of the proposed scheme and to the benefits to the local economy from long term farming security and farm diversification. However, against those considerations, the Secretary of State considers that, as a “major development”, the scheme fails to accord with the terms of the Framework, particularly paragraphs112 and115-116, and he gives substantial weight to that conflict. He also gives substantial weight to the loss of 3.9 ha of BMV land for the appeal scheme in view of the lack of compelling evidence to justify that loss; and moderate weight to the negative impact of the proposal on visual amenity with no weight to the potential reversibility of the proposal.
23.Overall, the Secretary of State considers that the benefits of the scheme are outweighed by the factors weighing against it and that there are no exceptional circumstances that would nevertheless justify the scheme. He therefore concludes that there are no material considerations in favour of the proposal of sufficient weight to justify determining the appeal other than in accordance with the development plan.
Graham Baker
NFA Planning