Sunday, 19 October 2014

Objecting to a Solar Park Application

Latest Planning Application (Click image to expand it)

Last year, I objected to a planning application for the installation and operation of a solar park consisting of up to 65,800 solar panels on agricultural land.

You can see my letter of objection HERE. Regrettably, Bedford Borough Council did not agree. Planning permission was granted - see HERE.

One of my objections was that land used to produce food would be lost:

“The UK is a densely populated country and land is a non-renewable source. Solar power stations preclude land use for many purposes: food production – especially with regards to grain crops; and diminishing stock of ‘wild’ country or remote rural tranquility – important for recreation and tourism.

I understand that the land which it is proposed to be developed is classified as Grade 2. Grades 1, 2 and 3 are defined as the best and most versatile – this is the land which is most flexible, productive and efficient in delivering future crops.”

According to the BBC this morning – see HERE, Environment Secretary Liz Truss has said large-scale solar farms are "a blight on the landscape" and confirmed plans to cut a taxpayer subsidy to farmers and landowners for the schemes.

She told the Mail on Sunday the land could be better used for growing food. There is currently a £100-an-acre grant scheme in place, worth £2m a year. Ms Truss said: "I want Britain to lead the world in food and farming and to do that we need enough productive agricultural land."

A proposal for another solar park (68,640 panels covering 27 acres of agricultural land, shown in the image above) is to be considered by Bedford Borough Council on Monday 20 October 2014. There is very strong local resistance to this application - see HERE, reported in our local newspaper Bedfordshire on Sunday HERE (at page 15) but will the objections along with the new government minister’s comments be enough to stop another wasteful “blight on the landscape”.

UPDATE!  Later, Sunday 19 October 2014

The hard copy and online editions of the Bedfordshire on Sunday newspaper reports drawn to your attention above are not as detailed as another online report which can be found HERE.

Amongst other alarming things, the newspaper reports:

“Bedfordshire on Sunday has seen documents which suggest most of those who have responded favourably to the consultation are connected in some way to Prosolia UK [the applicant] or the landowner. StopTheSolarFarm campaigners say when you take these responses out, the true level of opposition is much clearer.”

StopTheSolarFarm have updated their WEBSITE to include newer details including a revised figure for the size of the proposed site which is now said to be over 50 acres (about 25 football pitches!). New details at this stage leave insufficient time for those with everyday lives to get on with (versus those paid to propose, recommend and decide, and those who will profit from something that will be a blight on the landscape) to prepare a considered response given that Bedford Borough Council's PLANNING COMMITTEE meets tomorrow.

UPDATE! Wednesday 22 October 2014

Bedfordshire on Sunday reports HERE that a decision on the planning application has been deferred until after a site visit to be taken by the Planning Committee. Why, I wonder, especially given such a controversial application hadn't the Committee visited the site in advance of their meeting.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Wyboston, Chawston & Colesden Footpath No. A11E

A public hearing will be held at Wyboston Parish Village Hall next week on Tuesday 21 October 2014 into a public path order that Bedford Borough Council has made to extinguish a public footpath in Wyboston, a hamlet about 10 miles north of Bedford. I wrote about the order HERE.
Anyone can object to a public path order and I have objected to the Wyboston Order on behalf of the OpenSpaces Society. The Bedfordshire Rights of Way Association has objected too. As has Mike Clarke - a member of the public who has probably done more than any one person locally to protect public rights of way in the historic county of Bedfordshire. When consulted in the lead up to the making of the order, The Ramblers Association informed Bedford Borough Council that they would object to the proposed order but in the event, shamefully, they did not object and most probably won’t show up at the hearing.
A highway authority (Bedford Borough Council in this case) cannot proceed with an opposed order other than to abandon it or send it to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who can appoint an Inspector to hear the arguments for and against at a formal full public inquiry, or at a less formal public hearing, or by a process of written representations. After careful consideration the Inspector will confirm the order as it stands, or confirm it with modifications, or reject it.
The public hearing on Tuesday will be a first for me. I have notched up one public inquiry and two written representations procedures.
My hope is that the arguments against closing the footpath forever will be strong enough to convince the Inspector to reject the order thereby keeping the footpath in public use. Public rights of way are part of our heritage, and, in my view they are part of our identity and need to be protected for the enjoyment of all. Bedford Borough Council does not seem to hold the same view.
A landowner should not obstruct a public right of way – not least because it is a criminal offence to do so. And Bedford Borough Council should not use its discretionary powers, at the expense of the public, especially at a time when it is trying to save money, to reward landowners who wilfully obstruct public rights of way.
Rather, it should carry out its legal duty to protect public rights of way for present and future generations.