Agenda item



Proposed solar farm measuring 35.5 hectares with associated battery storage and ancillary infrastructure (as amended by revised and additional information November 2022).


RESOLVED: That application 22/00709/FP be REFUSED planning permission subject to the reasons and conditions set out in the report of the Development and Conservation Manager.



Audio recording – 1 hour 19 seconds


The Senior Planning Officer provided an update that there had been a further response from the LLFA stating that they objected to the application as there was no surface water drainage on the western parcel of the site.


The Senior Planning Officer presented the report in respect of application 22/00709/FP supported by a visual presentation consisting of photographs and plans.


The following Members asked points of clarification:


·       Councillor Ian Mantle

·       Councillor Tom Tyson


In response to the points of clarification the Senior Planning Officer stated that:


·       The application was for temporary use of the land for 40 years, whilst this was a considerable length of time it was noted that this was not unusual for this type of application.

·       The study area highlighted in blue, and commissioned by the applicant, showed the different impacts of planning matters, such as Heritage assets and residential properties, the study identified potential areas that may be impacted, and these were then addressed in the report.


The Chair invited Mr Peter Hobson to speak against the application. Mr Hobson thanked the Chair for the opportunity and provided the Committee with a verbal presentation including that:


·       They supported renewable energy, but this application was in the wrong location.

·       They supported the report and recommendations of the Senior Planning Officer.

·       The application site was crossed by well used footpaths including the Hertfordshire Way which offered picturesque views, this application would cause significant harm to the landscape and visual impact of these footpaths and to the openness of the green belt land.

·       The HCC Conservation Officer objected to the application due to the great harm to nearby Heritage assets located at Almshoe Bury, the Wyck and the Redcoat Farmhouse.

·       There were 409 comments received about the application, 236 of the comments were objections, with the majority of objectors living close to the site.

·       There had been over a thousand signatures on a petition opposing the application, but supporting renewable energy options.

·       People of Hitchin wanted renewable energy but felt that this was not the right site.

·       North Herts currently generates 11 megawatts of electricity from two small solar projects.

·       This solar farm, and the proposed Bygrave site would be amongst the largest solar farms in the UK with an estimated 50 megawatts capacity each which would equate to 1.34% of all ground mounted solar PV in the UK.

·       Should the two applications be successful the sites would equate to 20% of all ground mounted solar capacity installed this year and 10% over the last 12 months.

·       In proportion to land mass this application would be five times above the UK national average of ground mounted solar PV.

·       The proposed site was on highly valuable green land that was currently enjoyed by local residents.


The Chair thanked Mr Hobson for his presentation and invited Councillor David Barnard to speak against the application. Councillor Barnard thanked the Chair for the opportunity and provided the Committee with a verbal presentation including that: 


·       NHDC declared a climate emergency in May 2019, with the aim to reduce carbon emission by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2040.

·       The visual outlook of open countryside and greenbelt would be destroyed for the next 40 years should this application be approved.

·       There would be a resonating humming noise from the storage site that would be heard by residents and walkers.

·       Research showed that solar panels had an average lifespan of 25 years, and the removal of these panels would be at a great cost.

·       Used solar panel were likely to end up in land fill and this could mean that this site would end up as brownfield and have the potential in the future to become commercial or housing developments.

·       The land was valuable for produce in the food chain, and if successful there would be more carbon emissions through importations from foreign producers.

·       They supported the recommendations of the Senior Planning Officer.


In response to a point of clarification from Councillor Daniel Allen, Councillor Barnard stated that he was unable to currently provide any statistics regarding the operating noise, but had experienced the low-level humming, droning noise that was apparent from solar farms, and that he preferred the noise of sheep and cows in these fields.


The Chair advised that, whilst on a recent site visit to a solar farm in Reed, they had noticed very little noise.


The Chair thanked Councillor Barnard for his presentation and invited Mr Tom Roseblade to speak as a support of the application. Mr Roseblade thanked the Chair for the opportunity and provided the Committee with a verbal presentation including that:


·       Renewable energy and net zero were not possible without making difficult decision.

·       The connection to the grid was committed for 2026, and in the current saturated market there was enough availability at the Wymondley substation to accommodate this development.

·       There were arguments for and against this development with benefits and harms, there had been a recent precedent for a solar farm on greenbelt land and this should be reflected in the weight.

·       This scheme would generate a deliverable connection contributing to net zero and this should have a greater benefit weight.

·       Achieving net zero will inevitably result in some level of landscape and visual harm, this application had been designed to reduce the level of these harms, whilst accepting that some level of landscape and visual harm will remain as there are no alternative locations for this site outside of greenbelt land.

·       It was acknowledged that as this application required a difficult decision, objections from local residents were expected.

·       The development also had support from North Herts residents, who focused on the benefits of the scheme and securing a better future for the next generation.

·       Alternatives to the recommendation of the Senior Planning Officers, should be explored, and a pause for reconsideration could be an option.

·       The overall conclusion regarding the benefits and harms as stated in paragraph 4.9 of the report, stated that a different renewable energy project in this location could in very special circumstances be approved.

·       The Committee could be mindful and make a deferral, allowing the applicant to make slight amendments, including reducing the number of panels, increasing the landscaping especially the planting and footpath buffers, alternatively the applicant may make these amendments under the Wheatcroft Principal prior to a planning appeal.

·       If unsuccessful the application would be appealed, however this may mean that the grid connection was lost.

·       Should this application be refused it was likely that further applications would be submitted to use the Wymondley substation, however this site was the best location for a solar farm.


The following Members asked points of clarification:


·       Councillor David Levett

·       Councillor Sean Nolan

·       Councillor Val Bryant


In response to the points of clarification Mr Roseblade stated that:


·       The business rates were calculated on megawatts and were roughly £2K per megawatt, therefore the capacity at this site would generate around £50K in business rates per year. 

·       There would be some employment for the maintenance of the panels, periodic cleaning and onsite maintenance of the panels and landscape.

·       The employment would be the equivalent to 1.5 full time staff over a year.

·       It had been confirmed that the Wymondley Substation had available capacity for this application of 25 megawatts and a further scheme for 50 megawatts, and that there may then still be some further availability.

·       The expected lifespan of the solar panels was 25 years before they experienced some performance drop off and replacement of these panel would be on a rolling scheme.


The Chair thanked Mr Roseblade for his presentation.


The following Members took part in debate:


·       Councillor David Levett

·       Councillor Daniel Allen

·       Councillor Sean Nolan

·       Councillor Tom Tyson

·       Councillor Val Bryant


Points raised in debate included that:


·       £66K in business rates was not a significant amount, and the Council would only retain about £11K per year.

·       There would only be minor employment created for the site.

·       The energy generated could go anywhere in the country.

·       Would a deferral for minor amendments reduce the harms impact, or just be the same scheme.

·       Would the surface flooding change if this was deferred for minor amendments.

·       There was a clear need for green energy, but the harms are substantial for this site.

·       The noise level at the solar farm visited was not intrusive, and that location was not visible until you were very close to the site.

·       They were in favour of renewable energy but not to imposing harm to the landscape.

·       How many jobs would be lost and what impact would that have, as only 1.5 roles would be created.


The Locum Planning Lawyer advised that the applicant had made a request for a deferral and a decision needed to be made by the Committee as to whether they would honour the deferral request or if the application was going to be determined. In response to this point, Councillor Levett confirmed that he proposed to refuse the application and that, following the debate and vote on his proposal, a further proposal could be made to defer the application.


Councillor David Levett proposed and Councillor Daniel Allen seconded and, following a vote, it was:


RESOLVED: That application 22/00709/FP be REFUSED planning permission subject to the reasons and conditions set out in the report of the Development and Conservation Manager.

Supporting documents: