Go ahead for solar farm

PUBLISHED: 13:52 18 April 2013 | UPDATED: 13:52 18 April 2013

One of the three nearby solar farms during construction. Photo Chris Carson

One of the three nearby solar farms during construction. Photo Chris Carson

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Fourth green electricity plant near Hawkchurch is approved despite a warning that it would be "a blight on the area"

Controversial plans to build a fourth giant solar farm on land near Hawkchurch have been given the go ahead – but with strict landscaping conditions.

East Devon district councillors gave the 22-hectare electricity generating plant the green light after visiting the site on Friday

At a previous meeting members of the development control committee had been warned that putting another solar farm alongside the three existing ones in the area would overwhelm the country scene.

Axminster councillor John Jeffrey said it would be ‘overdevelopment’, adding the village has already ‘done its bit’ for renewable energy.

“It would undoubtedly prove detrimental, not only to local residents but would also be a further intrusion into the landscape of their beautiful area,” he added.

Several other committee members said the plans should be rejected, including David Key, who called the height of the panels, which were designed so sheep could continue to graze underneath them on the grade three agricultural land, a ‘monstrosity’.

Councillor Peter Sullivan said another solar farm in Hawkchurch would be a ‘blight on the area’, and Councillor Geoff Pook urged the council to refuse permission.

But after seeing the site, alongside the village sub station, members decided the scheme could go ahead – provided it was properly screened.

The imposed an amended condition that: “The approved landscaping scheme and wildlife and landscape management plan shall be carried out in the first planting season after commencement of the development unless otherwise agreed by the planning authority…and shall be maintained as approved for the duration of the development.

“In the event of failure of any vegetation to become established and to prosper for five years following the completion of the approved planting scheme, such vegetation shall be replaced on a like for like basis.”

The committee said it was imposing the tough conditions: “To protect and improve the appearance of the site in the interests of visual amenity of the area and to provide biodiversity enhancement opportunities in accordance with national planning policy framework of the East Devon local plan.”

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