A toolkit for those who seek to defend their landscape
from inappropriate solar farm developments
Updated to include latest policy April 2014
Despite caring profoundly for your threatened countryside you might be thinking that coming to understand the planning system and successfully defending your interests is just too challenging for you. IT IS NOT.
In a nutshell, the planning process is all about comparing a planning proposal to relevant planning policies. If you want to succeed with your objection, you need to present your objection in planning policy terms, citing all the relevant National Policy and Guidance.
This page will direct you to the relevant policy and guidance. All you have to do is write your objection letter and refer to relevant sections of the policy documents. Accordingly, I am confident that you can do it. We indicate links to the policy documents thus.
By the beginning of 2014, three ministries had published Guidance on the location of Solar PV installations. The Guidance was intended to provide protections for communities wishing to oppose solar farm and other renewable energy developments in best and most versatile agricultural land or within valuable heritage landscapes.
Sadly, the Guidance was being ignored by planners who held it to have no basis in law. However, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister had released its own document “The Planning System: General Principles”, available here. In this document, planning on a national level is described as being governed by rules that appear in Planning Policy Statements and Planning Policy Guidance Notes along with circulars and Parliamentary Statements.
Thus we argue that relevant ministerial guidance on the application of national planning policy should impact the planning decisions made with respect to Solar PV.
Along with a statement from the minister for the environment which pointed out that “the focus for growth [in solar PV] to be firmly on domestic and commercial roof space and previously used land”, there has been formal Guidance on locating solar from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
The purpose of this page is to provide you with access to this Guidance as it is published along with any linked and relevant publications from government. None of these documents are onerously long or overly technical. You will find them easy to understand such that you can identify those provisions that you can reference to support your opposition to the unwelcome solar proposals.
In July 2013, Eric Pickles ministry, the Department of Communities and Local Government published Guidance titled “Planning practice guidance for renewable and low carbon energy” which is available here. This document contains provisions that are directly relevant to solar PV in valuable landscapes. You may find provisions within sections 15, 25, 26 and 27 particularly useful.
In October 2013, the DECC released the UK Solar PV Roadmap Part 1 which is available here with part 2 due in early 2014.
On 1st November 2013 DECC minister Greg Barker wrote to all local planning authorities as he had realized that the Guidance was not delivering the protection it was designed to. A copy of that letter is available here. This letter will direct your attention to the relevant parts of the Solar PV Roadmap.
Part 2 of the UK Solar PV Roadmap was published in April 2014 and clarifies policy for valuable landscapes and land. A copy of this latest document which has already been seen to transform planning authorities attitudes to local solar farm proposals is available here.
The Planning System is governed by rules and these are presented in National Policy Statements. If you obtain the planning officers report on the planning application you oppose you will find extensive reference to this national policy along with local policy. Your task is to point up all the policy that says the planning proposal should be rejected.
A key document in this context is the National Planning Policy Framework which is available here. Sections you might find useful include 112, 123, 126, 129 and 131. You should also look at section 117 and examine the solar proposal you oppose to establish whether it includes biodiversity measures that are genuinely sustainable or are simply gestural.
An example of non a sustainable, gestural measure might be a proposal to plant out the solar farm site as a wildflower meadow when the land is agricultural Grade 2 and therefore too rich to sustain flowers. Flowers need poor soil. Grazing sheep on the solar farm can be similarly gestural because sheep have been found to damage the frames solar panels are mounted on and so quickly become a problem and have to be removed.
This advice is offered to you freely but with no guarantees. The links to the documents are to the .GOV.UK website. If any cease to work please let us know. If you have suggestions or corrections for this page, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: Stour Valley Underground are not planning experts and can only advise based on experience gained through our campaigning. This page is a self help guide for those who wish to object to an inappropriate solar PV proposal using only their own commitment and effort. If your interests are threatened by a solar PV proposal and you have the resources, you would be better advised to engage the services of a planning consultant.