The views expressed in this page do not represent those of the Planning Inspectorate. This page consists of content submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by the public and other interested parties, giving their views of this proposal.
Little Crow Solar Park
Received 26 February 2021
From Sills & Betteridge LLP on behalf of Richard Fenwick Johnson
“1. The Interested Party is one of the owners and a residential occupier of Heron’s Lodge, a house and surrounding land bounded on three sides by the Order Limits. The main proposed solar farm development site (“the Solar Farm”) lies to the south-west of the Interested Party’s home. The Interested Party’s home appears to be the closest residential property to the Solar Farm. The Interested Party’s property is registered at HM Land Registry with title number HS296734. 2. The Interested Party OBJECTS to the proposed development. 3. As a preliminary point the presentation of material on the proposed development by the applicant and the Planning Inspectorate is virtually unusable and has severely constrained the preparation of these representations. The index prepared by the applicant bears no relation to the order of material on the Planning Inspectorate website and contains no cross-referencing to any form of referencing adopted by the Planning Inspectorate. The key document, the Environmental Statement appears on the Planning Inspectorate website as 54 separate documents of which the first six are Appendix 9.1, Appendix 8.1, Appendix 7.4, Appendix 6.4, Appendix 3.1, Appendix 7.9. The first substantive chapter, Chapter 8, is the tenth document. In this form it is unusable and it is almost certain that relevant material has been missed in considering the representations to be made. One of the key problems is that it has been impossible to conduct a keyword search on the entirety of the ES which, in the absence of a traditional index, is the only viable way of considering the document as a whole. This represents a serious departure from the publicity requirements for infrastructure projects. 4. The Objection concerns both the construction/removal phases of the development and the period of operation of the Solar Farm. The principal concerns of the Interested Party relate to the impact on the Interested Party and other occupiers of Heron Lodge from the environmental effects; noise, vibration, visual amenity disturbance, and presence of the public caused by the proposed development. 5. However, before addressing them, the overarching issue is why should this development take place here? 6. There is no material specifically relating to solar projects within either policies EN-3 or EN-5 which is disappointing. Accordingly, the relevant planning policies are EN-1 and the February 2019 edition of the NPPF together with the relevant policies of North Lincolnshire Council. 7. Paragraph 117 of the NPPF provides: “Strategic policies should set out a clear strategy for accommodating objectively assessed needs, in a way that makes as much use as possible of previously-developed or ‘brownfield’ land.“ This policy is applied by paragraph 5.10.3 of EN-1 which provides that “Although the re-use of previously developed land for new development can make a major contribution to sustainable development by reducing the amount of countryside and undeveloped greenfield land that needs to be used, it may not be possible for many forms of energy infrastructure.” North Lincolnshire LDF Core Strategy policy CS3 provides: “Development outside these defined boundaries will be restricted to that which is essential to the functioning of the countryside. This will include uses such as that related to agriculture, forestry or other uses which require a countryside location or that which will contribute to the sustainable development of the tourist industry.” 8. Solar projects are projects that fundamentally can be constructed on previously developed land if that land is available. The only meaningful constraints on a solar project are road access, line of sight availability of sufficient sunlight and the availability of a grid connection. The Interested Party has been unable to identify any statement of the need to develop a solar energy project at this green-field site and it is submitted that there are none. However, it is not for the Interested Party to prove a negative, but for the applicant to demonstrate need at this location. 9. This is particularly significant because this development project involves the loss of 36.6 hectares of grade 3a agricultural land (ES Table 10.10) where paragraph 5.10.8 of EN-1 provides that “Applicants should seek to minimise impacts on the best and most versatile agricultural land (defined as land in grades 1, 2 and 3a of the Agricultural Land Classification) and preferably use land in areas of poorer quality (grades 3b, 4 and 5) except where this would be inconsistent with other sustainability considerations.” The ES misrepresents the effect of this entirely (paragraphs 10.9.18-20) by treating grazing by sheep that could be undertaken on the poorest of soils as the equivalent of the current arable farming. 10. The Noise Impact Assessment (ES Appendix 4.9) appears to be of no value because it was conducted in respect of a site significantly smaller than the development site as defined by the Order Limits (see indicative site plan at the end of the Assessment). In particular, the roadway running to the north of the Interested Party’s property which represents the closest approach of the proposed development to the Interested Party’s property is omitted entirely. Therefore, there has been no consideration of the impact of either construction or operational traffic on the Interested Party. The failure to consider the effects of traffic, also render the conclusions in respect of vibration in section 8 of the Assessment, fundamentally flawed. 11. Even with this omission the Assessment considers (paragraph 6.1) that “Receivers 2 [the relevant receiver]and 3 could be subject to levels that exceed desirable levels during daytime hours.” This conclusion was however “preliminary only, based on the anticipated levels of noise. It is understood that the predicted noise emissions are worst case. Calculations should be undertaken using noise data for the final plant selection before any mitigation is applied.” Yet it does not appear that the data and conclusions have been updated. 12. The value of the Air Quality and Carbon Assessment (Appendix 4.5) is equally questionable. Although the Assessment plan shows the correct Order Limits (see figure 1.1) the narrative of the Assessment indicates that the Assessment, is like the Noise Impact Assessment, based on erroneous Order Limits. At page 10 it states “The closest properties to the proposed site consists of two farm structures with at least one structure being used as a residential dwelling and are located east of the proposed site and North of Broughton at distances of 280m and 415m from the Order Limits. The Interested Party’s land is due south of the roadway which is within the Order Limits and the nearest buildings are less than 50 metres from it. It is obvious that no consideration has been given to air quality and dust along the roadway as a consequence of the proposed development. The roadway is extremely dusty during the arable harvest which is the only time when, for a week or two, it sees any significant use. 13. The increased use of the roadway will have a significant visual impact on the Interested Party’s property. Traffic is within sight and use outside of the harvest period is currently minimal. Chapter 6 of the ES fails to address the issue. 14. Paragraph 11.5.1 of the ES dealing with Socio-Economic Issues states “There are no identified negative effects associated with the Proposed Development.” Regrettably, the authors have not found because the authors have not looked. There is no evaluation of the impact on the property values of neighbouring residential and commercial properties of developments such as this. This is no evaluation of the extent to which developments such as this operate as a “pull factor” for acquisitive crime, particularly bearing in mind the presence on site of batteries that are likely to have high scrap value. There is no evaluation of the social impact of the proposed development on nearby residential occupiers (including child occupiers) who will, by the proposed development, be permanently deprived of an extremely rural environment despite living relatively close to an industrial town and in addition will have to live through the disruption of the construction phase. 15. It is difficult to comment on the proposed diversion of the public footpath as it has not proved possible to identify the current route of the footpath from the application documents. That also means that the Interested Party has been unable to identify whether any alternative diversionary route is feasible or whether the footpath serves sufficient need to justify a diversion rather than a temporary stopping up. It has not been possible to find any assessment of footpath usage. The proposed diverted footpath will bring pedestrian traffic very close to the Interested Party’s property where previously there was none. That is a security concern and the Interested Party considers that every effort should be made to find an alternative solution. 16. An informal offer was made by a representative of the developer to secure the 3 phase electrical supply box and meters serving the Interest Party’s property and adjoining properties where the supply is taken from the overhead HT power lines. This equipment will be located very close to and visible from the proposed diverted footpath. It represents a security risk to the Interested Party and a safety risk to the public. That offer has not been repeated in the current proposals and appears to have been overlooked or disregarded. 17. The planning permission for the immediately adjoining commercial property (North Lincolnshire PA/2018/148) contains a restriction on hours of use to Monday – Friday, 7am – 6pm with no use on Saturdays, Sundays or Public Holidays. This is to secure the residential amenity of the Interested Party’s property. There seems no good reason why site construction of the proposed development should not be similarly limited. Likewise, manned operations during the operational phase of the Solar Farm should be similarly limited.”