Solar farm likened to '50 Old Traffords' on green belt near Warwick given go ahead in a call that divided councillors
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A solar farm likened to “50 Old Traffords” on green belt land near Sherbourne has been granted planning permission in a call that divided councillors.
Warwick District Council’s planning committee passed the proposal for a solar farm that is set to power up to 7,500 homes on farm land north of the A46, Sherbourne Hill. The permission lasts for 40 years.
Objectors, including local member Councillor Jan Matecki (Con, Budbrooke), argued that the very special circumstances had not been met to develop on the green belt and that alternative sites could be found.
However, planning officer Lucy Hammond – one of the professionals employed by the council to assess and advise on such matters – was satisfied with justification submitted by applicant NS Solar 03 that there were no viable alternatives in the area.
It was accepted that it would be “inappropriate” with impacts on the openness of the area and encroachment into undeveloped land but Ms Hammond added: “In this particular case, officers consider the absence of harm (other than that to the green belt) together with the proposed benefits and the temporary and reversible nature of the permission tip the weight in favour of a positive recommendation.”
During the debate, it was confirmed that the four public rights of way running through the site would be maintained with fencing and a landscape buffer – trees and hedgerow – separating them from the solar panels.
That formed part of the argument against which was launched by Councillor Andrew Day (Con, Bishop’s Tachbrook).
“One of the great assets of living in this part of the country is to enjoy our public footpaths,” he said.
“They are a very popular amenity feature but people also use them to get around. This area is blessed with some fantastic paths which connect the Sherbourne Conservation Area with its surrounds.
“What we are talking about here is putting up two-metre high, industrial fencing, albeit with plants, that seriously encloses the approaches, views, engagement and amenity of the countryside.
“Its intrinsic character is the setting in which it is. If we remove that, we are quite clearly in breach of the issues in the green belt.”
Councillor Peter Phillips (Con, Budbrooke) added: “I am not convinced the very special circumstances have been met.
“We are starting to salami slice the green belt, it is equivalent to 50 Old Traffords going right next to the village of Sherbourne and I am very concerned about starting the urbanisation of the green belt.”
However, only three councillors backed refusal, despite reservations elsewhere on the committee.
Councillor Lowell Williams (Green, Kenilworth Park Hill) backed the plans but “not with any joy”.
He noted comparisons with other nearby applications and concerns that the green belt could be swamped with solar farms, matters that were raised throughout the debate.
“I am putting my trust in the officers having reviewed it carefully," he said.
"I think this particular application will be of significant benefit and is acceptable, I am supporting it on the strength of the merits of this application.”