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Campaigners 'let down' by A303 solar farm decision

By Western Gazette - Crewkerne  |  Posted: October 25, 2012

Richard Hart, Claire Hart and Rosanna Chilttenden were fighting approval of a 47-acre solar farm near Ilminster along the A303

Richard Hart, Claire Hart and Rosanna Chilttenden were fighting approval of a 47-acre solar farm near Ilminster along the A303

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Campaigners opposing the building of what could be the biggest solar farm in the country say they are disappointed following its approval by South Somerset District Council.

Plans to extend the existing solar farm at Parsonage, Dillington, alongside the A303, were approved on Wednesday, October 17.

Residents of nearby villages such as Stocklinch and Whitelackington cannot appeal against the decision but are now looking into pursuing a judicial review.

Stocklinch parish councillor Claire Hart said: “We are very disappointed. I think what I found frustrating was the way that the planning system works.

“You get three minutes to say your piece at these meetings and then that’s it. Then the councillors have their own discussion which you can hear but, if they say something that is inaccurate, you can’t dispute it.”

Mrs Hart contacted landowner, Ewen, Lord Cameron of Dillington, ahead of the meeting to try and put a stop to the application.

She said: “We asked councillors to have bunding put in around the site in order to shield the panels from view instead of planting trees – which will take years to provide the same effect.

“But despite me speaking with Lord Cameron, who had no objection to this, we were told the landowner did not want it. We could not put up our hands to say that in fact Lord Ewen Cameron did not mind.”

The campaigners believe glare from the panels may cause a distraction to drivers on what they say is an already dangerous road.

Mrs Hart said: “We were told there were no planning reasons to turn it down and that councillors had to make a decision with their heads and not their hearts.

“But we found a few reasons to turn the application down on planning grounds and there already exists a precedent where a solar farm has been turned down elsewhere in the country purely for the impact it would have.

“A lot of us felt it was not a fair hearing and that money and profit ruled the day.

“We appreciate the concessions that were made; they have increased the planting and the site will now be 47 acres instead of 51.

“Instead of just over 41,000 panels there will be 37,000. We are grateful for that but still quite frustrated.

“We are not against sustainable energy but it has to be in the right place.”

The application was submitted by Solar Century Ltd.

The district council recommended it for approval because it encouraged renewable energy.

A spokesman from Dillington Farms said: “Dillington Farms are keen to promote all types of alternative, low carbon, renewable energy.

“The UK needs a variety of energy sources. The UK also has international commitments to meet regarding the percentage of its power coming from renewable sources.”

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  • siarad2  |  October 26 2012, 6:06PM

    @Bonkim2003 But farmers are now paid not to use land but to conserve it, no problem now just a bit of mowing & watch the bank account. "The Single Payment Scheme (SPS), part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), is the principal agricultural subsidy scheme in the EU. Under the scheme farmers have freedom to farm to the demands of the market as payments are not linked to production, and environmentally friendly farming practices (known as cross compliance) are acknowledged."

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  • Boxotricks  |  October 26 2012, 1:12PM

    The objectors should not be "disappointed" over the decision or how it was arrived at. - Whilst South Somerset District Council has a raft of Regulations and Policies it trumpets will ensure a "level playing field" in Planning matters. Anyone who has experienced the Planning Process will know that things tend to be somewhat different in reality. - Let us take their Regulation regarding "Agricultural Land is a finite resource". Sounds good. We assume it means this must form the bedrock of any planning decisions. (The protection of our land) They take a slightly more "flexible" view. It appears at times that it all depends on who the applicant is. - The objectors mention the 3 minute rule at hearings. The "behind closed doors" behaviour. - They could add. The final date for objections being laid before the Council is interpreted diffferently by the Council than anyone else on the planet. The date is NOT the date for submissions. That ends the day BEFORE. Good...eh. - The objectors should also be aware that any Conditions applied to the application are equally "flexible". Dependent, again, on who you are. They should not assume that such conditions will actually be acted upon if breached by the applicant. - So. Don't be "disappointed" objectors. Merely chalk it up as a learning curve. - It's not what you know. It's who you know. Have a nice day...........

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  • Bonkim2003  |  October 26 2012, 12:40AM

    The question is - has the land potential for agricultural/horticultural crops? With increasing food cost, surely the farmer should take a long term use on best use of his land.

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