Solar farm plans in Caunton, Nottinghamshire rejected by Newark and Sherwood District Council’s planning committee
Two controversial solar farm applications have been refused, with councillors calling for a change in policy.
At the latest meeting of Newark and Sherwood District Council’s planning committee, councillors discussed plans for two solar farm developments which would have covered a combined 145 hectares of agricultural land near Caunton.
Under the plans solar panels would have been placed upon the farm land in the rural community for a period of 40 years, after which the land would be restored.
Both solar farms are listed as having an electrical capacity of 49.9MW, falling just short of the 50MW level whereby plans would be required to go to the Secretary of State for Energy for determination.
Although legally submitted as separate applications and by companies under different names, councillors saw the move as an attempt to get around planning rules as both companies are not only controlled by the same people but are registered at the same business address.
Roughly 50 members of the public were present at the meeting, many of which held signs reading “say NO to the solar invasion.”
The chairman of South Muskham and Little Carlton Parish Council, David Catanach, was invited to speak on behalf of residents.
He said: “This by far is one of the most troublesome and concerning applications we’ve ever had to deal with.
“It is clear this is one part of a much larger plan for solar farms in this area.
“How can two applications presented at the same time, in locations physically next to each other and in different names but ultimately owned by one entity be considered separate?
“It calls concerns to the openness of the application itself.”
The committee chairman agreed with the sentiments of councillors and described the split planning application as “a ruse.”
As ward member, Sue Saddington, was critical of the plans and called for firmer policies surrounding solar applications to be introduced.
She said: “We have a pending application for Norwell, a new application for Kelham, notification of the Great North solar farm this week encompassing many villages close to here, but we have no firm policy on solar farms.
“I think it is time we stood back and looked at where we are going. We can’t have them springing up everywhere without a clear strategic plan.
“Let’s get a policy and decide where these solar farms can and can’t be, rather than ruining our countryside or else we will be known as Electrity City.”
“Be environmentally friendly, be climate friendly but for goodness sake let’s be sensible.”
Mrs Saddington also suggested installing solar panels on public buildings and new-build housing as an alternative to open countryside.
Members placed a great deal of concern on the loss of grade 3A agricultural land, the best quality land for growing crops, and the nation’s future food security as a result.
It was also argued that the suggested 40 year lifespan of the developments should not be considered temporary as if approved would have set a precedent for all future planning applications.
The visual impact of the development on the landscape was also raised as a reason to object to the plans.
Adrian Amer, said: “This application is a link in a chain which will visually strangle Nottinghamshire.
“It’s future effects have not been thought out clearly at all. How can anybody predict what will happen 10, 20, 30, 40 years in the future?
“The visual impact of this application will potentially be devastating.
“In essence, it will be the death of our beautiful, natural landscape in Nottinghamshire, which I wish to protect.”
After three hours of discussion, councillors rejected both applications.
Members voted unanimously to refuse the Knapton Lodge plans on the grounds that grade 3A agricultural land would be lost, the loss of this land for a period of 40 years and the visual impact on the landscape.
On the Muskham Woods application, eleven voted for refusal, with two abstentions on the grounds that grade 3B agricultural land would be lost, the loss of this land for a period of 40 years and the visual impact on the landscape.
The refusals received cheers and a round of applause from the packed public seating.