Home
BeInvolved

Bleadon Acting

Together (BAT)

Brownfield
Current Applications
Development Table
Elsewhere
Environmental
Food Security
Fracking
General
Housing £
Incentives £
Infill Status
Issues
Mapping
Neighbourhood Plans
News Articles
Objections
Parish Plan
Planning Info
Representation
Rule 6 - Appeals
Support Services
Sustainability
Why BOB?


 Also like us on...

 Bleadon


and Twitter



Solar Farm Appeal Comments

Posted on 24th December, 2013

 

Please see below comments from a concerned Purn Hill lover, also posted on Bleadon Facebook.

 

Hi Bleadon residents and users of Purn and Bleadon Hill. This is a copy of a letter I have sent to the Planning Inspectorate at Bristol, to the email address teamp16@pins.gsi.gov.uk regarding the planning appeal for the PV array in Accommodation Road. We have until the 31st December to make written comments. If any of the material below makes sense to you as a user of Purn Hill and surrounds, please feel free to use it and send your own email. The more emails they receive the stronger the case will be against the case.

I've written a long letter but here is the last paragraph to summarise.

 

"The loss of agricultural land and beautiful scenery to solar panels in this planning appeal is misguided and misjudged, and the problems with allowing the array to go ahead are manifold. Farmland will be lost to agricultural use for at least 25 years, with no definite return to agriculture afterwards as there is no precedence for this. More importantly, it sets the precedent for many more areas of solar panels on agricultural land rather than brown field or urban sites where PV arrays create less environmental impact. If this appeal fails, as it should, it will allow future generations of residents in and around the Mendips to continue to enjoy uninterrupted views to the sea in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Please do not allow the appeal to win."

 

And here's my letter in full:

TO: The North Somerset Council

Planning and Development

 

FAO: Mr Rob Worgan

Ref: 13/P/0854/F2 Land at South Hill Farm, Lympsham.

AND

Hazel Stanmore-Richards, The Planning Inspectorate, BS16NP

 

From:

Alison Warner Phd

Black House Farm,

Hinton Ampner, Alresford,

Hampshire SO240LF

 

Dear Mr Worgan,

It is with disbelief that I received your letter referencing the Appeal Reference APP/DO121/A/13/2208198, viz the siting of the photovoltaic array by Energi plc in an area of land off Bridgwater Road and Accommodation Road, Bleadon. I have a PhD in environmental geography & pollution, and a first-hand understanding of the issues locally as I grew up in Bleadon and return regularly to visit family & friends on and around Purn Hill. I always walk up the hill to see the fantastic views and often meet locals who come from as far as Weston to see the spectacular sunsets and the changing seasons.

 

I would like the following points to be made to the Planning Inspectorate.

 

1. The glint and glare assessment does not take into account the view line from Purn Hill, Uphill, Bleadon Hill, Brent Knoll and Brean Down, where recreational users of these resources will all clearly be able to see the PV array. Whilst the appeal notes that Purn Hill creates a visual barrier from other parts of the MAONB, this ignores the large number of walkers that physically use Purn Hill itself, and live locally, who will not be protected from the visual pollution the array will create whilst they are using this valuable rural resource. This is a critical element of the argument against the placement of the array is the site applied for, and must not be underestimated.

 

2. The Mendip Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was a conservation structure put into place to conserve local viewlines and precious landscapes. The hills noted in point 1 are all either part of the MAONB or are an integral part of the view from these points. Placing a PV array within these viewlines is an act of conservation & environmental vandalism, and North Somerset Council will be more than accountable for this massive long-term degradation of the landscape that will impact the next generation and potentially beyond.

 

3. The website portal did not allow a full search of the appeal referenced APP/DO121/A/13/2208198, on December 22nd 2013, but I understand from reporting on the subject in local papers that the array has increased to 36,400 panels from 32,000. This is, in my opinion, cynical and underhand behavior from Energi plc and leads us to doubt their environmental integrity. I would add that the December date of the appeal also adds to be overall cynical nature of the developer, who is not local to the area.

 

4. It would make sense, from a planning position, to understand how much these beautiful views are worth to people who live and visit the area. Thus there is a need for a large scale amenity assessment of the cultural, recreational and social value of the views affected by the solar panel array. This would need to include Purn Hill, Uphill, Brean Down. Brent Knoll and Bleadon Hill, and be carried out by an independent assessor with no vested interest over an annual period to avoid seasonality. The fact that this is not already in the EIA is exceptional and speaks volumes through its absence. The reasoning behind this must be that ADAS/Energi plc were anxious about the results and thus decided not to go down that route. I think this needs massive flagging up.

 

5. There are a number of social media and web based references to the beauty of the area and users of the region and Purn Hill. Some of these include the following addresses: http://www.wondersofweston.org/nominations/my-den, http://www.docstoc.com/docs/75388294/Walborough-and-Purn-Hill-for-coast-paths-and-hilltops http://www.bleadon.org.uk/purnhill.html Image 8 of this last web address looks across to Brean Down, and is clearly a valued view. The addition of solar panels (34,600 of them) will be a negative addition to this rural and beautiful landscape, and a photo of the array would be making a different, definitely negative point.

 

6. Zoopla the property sales company makes this point in its description of a house on Bleadon Hill: “A modernised 3-bed detached bungalow situated on Bleadon Hill & enjoying views toward the Bristol Channel & Welsh coast” [http://www.zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/property/bleadon/purn-road/]. There will be a detraction in property prices and amenity value for local residents if the array goes ahead. Zoopla are unlikely to state ‘enjoying views over the 34 thousand solar panels towards the Bristol Channel…’ which is what the house owner would be overlooking if the PV array consent is granted.

 

7. The planting of a large woodland belt to the east of the project needs to be considered carefully. There is evidence of a lack of policing of environmental mitigation elsewhere in Bleadon (namely the grain drying unit off Accommodation Lane that is supposed to be screened by willows but is not). Furthermore the species of trees needs to be decided carefully: having a large run of fast growing conifers to ‘reduce the landscape impacts of the scheme’ will not mitigate but add a hard green line to the landscape when viewed from the Mendips and hills around the site. Screening species need to fit the landscape and be locally found Ash-Maple woodland species as found in the woodlands of the Mendip Hills (http://www.naturalareas.naturalengland.org.uk/Science/natural/profiles%5CnaProfile84.pdf p8, p13, para 4.2.2) rather than fast growing, evergreen types. Even with this boundary line of trees, I raise the pojnt that screening implies the panel array will be ugly to look at and reduce visual amenity.

 

8. Please can the planning inspectorate ask Energi plc/ADAS for further details about net gains in biodiversity, specifically with reference to additional habitat for brown hares, notoriously sensitive to disturbance from humans. The reference to brown hares without supporting scientific evidence (referencing habitats and population increases through appropriate habitat development) appears to be an attempt to reference a much-loved creature in order to create a positive spin on the appeal. In my opinion, this raises the issue of Energi plc’s environmental credibility again, in an attempt to win the appeal on the basis of the promise of brown hare habitat.

 

9. There is limited reference to the use of chemicals to keep the grass down under the solar array panels. Please can the Planning Inspectorate confirm that ADAS/Energi plc have identified and confirmed which herbicides and pesticides they plan to use on the site, how the use will be monitored, and that the chemicals chosen will not cause habitat destruction or eutrophication of the locally important hydrological system, with potential loss to sensitive species such as Great Crested Newt, or the nationally scare Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterfly present in the SSSI’s locally. I refer you to the document http://www.naturalareas.naturalengland.org.uk/Science/natural/profiles%5CnaProfile84.pdf . pp8-10

 

10. I urge the Planning Inspectorate also to gain confirmation of names of the specific farmers who have confirmed they will graze sheep in the array. There are very few sheep farmers locally. Again, this has the taint of green wash.

 

11. The large scale array proposed is effectively extending urbanization and industrialization into the countryside. The appropriate place for solar panels is within urban areas, specifically on large roofs of industrial buildings and supermarkets such as those in and around Weston-Super –Mare.

 

The loss of agricultural land and beautiful scenery to solar panels in this planning appeal is misguided and misjudged, and the problems with allowing the array to go ahead are manifold. Farmland will be lost to agricultural use for at least 25 years, with no definite return to agriculture afterwards as there is no precedence for this. More importantly, it sets the precedent for many more areas of solar panels on agricultural land rather than brown field or urban sites where PV arrays create less environmental impact. If this appeal fails, as it should, it will allow future generations of residents in and around the Mendips to continue to enjoy uninterrupted views to the sea in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Please do not allow the appeal to win.

 

Yours sincerely

Alison Warner PhD (SOAS)

 

Wonders of Weston is a programme of remarkable and memorable artworks, part of the national Sea Change initiative, which seeks to support the revitalisation of British seaside towns. 

 

Link to Solar Farm Appeal information

Make A Comment

Characters left: 2000

Comments (3)

I am disappointed by the position of Bleadon Parish Council standing by their previous decision (draft minutes 9th December) on this issue in spite of numerous objections some from village residents such as myself.

There appears to be an inconsistency in the decision making of the Planning Committee. In August a retrospective planning application for the erection of stable development was refused on the ground that the development was outside the village fence ie 'green belt' and allowing [sic] ' we can raise no objection to this proposal' also in green belt, of the solar application. The first arguably a building but for animal use the latter a large scale industrial application.

Thank you so much, Alison, for taking the time and trouble to post the details of your excellent letter on this website. I only hope that it will encourage others to send in their comments in the little time that we now have left to make our voices heard.