Futures Forum: Solar Plan for Sidmouth fails
There had been considerable alarm expressed about this development - primarily because of its impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - from many quarters:
Large solar farm planned in AONB, overlooking Sidbury. | Save Our Sidmouth
Large solar farm proposed at East Hill, overlooking Sidbury - East Devon Alliance
The main reason the Town Council in rejecting the application was due to the impact on the AONB:
- Contrary to Policy EN1 - Developments affecting Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: It was considered that the proposed development would create a significant and detrimental visual impact in the countryside within this important Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This in turn would be likely to impact the vital tourist industry in the area.
And the main reason from other objectors was the impact on the AONB:
A total of 6 objections, 3 letters of support and 2 representations have been received, raising the following issues:
• There is no need for such development in the AONB
• It would use valuable agricultural land
• There would be no community benefit
• It would increase traffic
• There would be an adverse archaeological impact
• It would increase flooding
• It would have a harmful visual impact and would be out of keeping with the unspoilt character of the area
The East Devon AONB authority itself was not happy about the impact on the AONB:
The development has a number of challenging aspects: It is located in the AONB - England's highest landscape designation for scenic quality and will significantly alter the landscape character of this location The site is not located on previously developed land nor is it immediately adjacent to existing development, with development nearby or with nearby non-natural land cover. As a result it erodes the intrinsically rural nature of the countryside in this sparsely developed area
NPPF calls for valued landscapes to be protected and enhanced (NPPF 109) with the greatest weight being given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) (NPPF 115). There is a presumption against major development in protected landscapes (NPPF 116). This is a major development for renewable energy that will have a significant impact on the landscape character and scenic beauty of the AONB at this location.
Has this 'set a precedent'?
The DMC in its refusal to grant this application stated:
In the absence of information regarding the availability of land elsewhere which could be used to meet the national renewable energy targets, it has not been demonstrated that development in the highly protected AONB landscape is essential. With no imperative need for the development in this location and an unacceptable impact on the character and appearance of the area, the benefits of the scheme do not outweigh the harm. [page 229 of above]
In other words, this application would have been accepted if it had not been on AONB land.
Observers have noted parallels with other proposals for development on AONB around Sidmouth:
Employment land, at Sidford:
Sidford fields, AONB or Business Park? | Save Our Sidmouth
Last minute attempt to remove Sidford from Local Plan - Features - Sidmouth Herald
There is also the issue of more housing above Woolbrook on AONB land.
To be considered in a later posting, from 2009:
www.eastdevon.gov.uk/issues___options_responses_dec09.pdf (page 52)
www.eastdevon.gov.uk/ldfp_agenda_130809.pdf (page 69)
Vision for Sidmouth housing debate - News - Sidmouth Herald
Housing questions raised at Sidmouth Vision meeting - News - Sidmouth Herald
View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset
Vision Group for Sidmouth - Woolbrook Meeting
To be considered at the Examination of the New East Devon Local Plan on 25th February 2014:
East Devon Proposed Local Plan Consultation 2012