Installation of a renewable energy scheme comprising ground mounted photovoltaic solar arrays together with substation; transformer stations; access; internal access track; landscaping; biodiversity measures; security fencing; security measures; access gate; access improvement and ancillary infrastructure.
This application had been the subject of a site visit prior to the committee meeting. The following members had attended the site visit:
Cllrs: Robin Cook, John Worth, Shane Bartlett, Dave Bolwell, Alex Brenton, Kelvin Clayton, Mary Penfold, Belinda Ridout and David Tooke.
Cllrs: Jean Dunseith, Mike Dyer, Sherry Jespersen did not attend the site visit and did not take part in the discussion or vote.
Cllr Penfold, as Ward Member elected to take part in the decision-making process as a member of the Strategic Planning Committee rather than address the meeting in the role of Ward Member,
The Planning Officer presented the report which proposed installation of a renewable energy scheme comprising ground mounted photovoltaic solar arrays together with substation; transformer stations; access; internal access track; landscaping; biodiversity measures; security fencing; security measures; access gate; access improvement and ancillary infrastructure.
The application site was in an area of agricultural land with hedgerows and planting, there were no buildings on the site but there were several listed buildings on land nearby. The committee were shown slides with views from various points. In response to officer advice the applicants had reduced the size of the scheme by 20% however the Planning Officer suggested that this was not enough in the overall context.
The application proposed a substation, transformer station, control house and a security system with fencing.
The key planning issues were highlighted, and members were advised that the principle of approving applications should only be where the impacts of development were acceptable. In this case the application was recommended for refusal as it would be so visually intrusive the harm would outweigh the benefits. The public benefits of the development were not considered to outweigh the cumulative harm caused to the character of the valued landscape and its importance to the setting of heritage assets and their relationship with the rural landscape.
The Planning Technical Support Officer read the written representations; these are attached as appendix to these minutes.
The committee debated the application. They felt that the scheme was balanced on a knife edge, on one hand Dorset Council had declared a climate emergency which had to be balanced against the cumulative harm to the landscape and the heritage assets, plus the loss of recreational value.
The committee debated the level of harm, conserving the sense of rural tranquillity, noise and light pollution. In relation to what may be considered a suitable size for the application, the Applicant had stated that a smaller operation would not be viable. It was not known how many other sites in the Dorset Council area that might be suitable for a similar application. Members felt they had to balance the impact on the whole landscape whilst maintaining the need to put great weight on renewable energy.
Proposed by Cllr B Ridout, seconded by Cllr M Penfold
That the application be refused as the benefits did not outweigh the cumulative harm to the landscape and the heritage assets, plus the loss of recreational value in a pastoral landscape.
On being put to the vote the proposal was LOST.
Proposed by Cllr K Clayton, seconded by Cllr D Tooke
That the application be approved as the public benefits would outweigh the less than substantial harm to the heritage assets and landscape. As per para 202 of the NPPF.
There was an adjournment from 11;47 – 12;00 to enable the Planning Officers to prepare planning conditions.
On returning the Planning Officer advised the committee of 12 conditions should the application be approved together with proposal for delegated powers to the Head of Planning to agree detailed wording with the Chairman and Vice-Chairman.
On being put to the vote the members were minded to approve the application with the 12 conditions and suggested delegations.
The Service Manager for Development Mgt & Enf confirmed that she had heard the full debate and the application would be determined in line with the committee’s minded to decision.
Decision: that the application be delegated to the Head of Planning for approval in conjunction with the Chairman and Vice-Chairman and subject to the conditions outlined in the appendix to these minutes