Plans are currently under development to site a vast new solar farm, off Church Lane, in open country to the north-west of the village of Preston Candover on farm land owned by Lord and Lady Sainsbury. The proposal for a 28 megawatt solar site is still in the early stages of development by Preston Farms and Basingstoke and Deane planning officers have been asked for advice on screening options. The planned site for this solar farm covers an area of high quality arable land and may require the clearance of several old hedges and have a major impact on the rural character of the area.
The proposed plans are revealed in an application which is currently under consideration by Basingstoke planners (No. 21/00280/ENSC) and was submitted on 25 January. It is believed that a formal application for planning permission will be required before work can proceed as this project introduces an industrial activity into an agricultural environment.
Basingstoke and Deane’s landscape team have reviewed the proposals and are recommending that an Environmental Impact Assessment is completed to address landscape issues, and that mitigation proposals should be prepared to address the impact on the visual amenity to users of the footpaths and the rights of way near the site. The team has asked for cross sectional and detailed drawings, which show the height and scale of the solar panels in relation to the landscape, to assess the visibility from public rights of way.
The landscape report says that site currently comprises three agricultural fields lying within gently sloping open countryside to the north west of Preston Candover. A number of rights of way are within the vicinity of the site, including two adjacent to the site on the eastern and western boundaries. To the south of the proposed site lies Lilleys Copse and Chiltern Copse, bith Ancient Woodlands and Sites of Importance to Nature Conservation (SINC).
“The application site also lies within the Candover Valley Landscape Character Area as defined by the BDBC Landscape Assessment (June 2001). The site and its surrounding landscape display some of the key characteristics of this area, being a mix of agricultural fields with mature hedgerows and woodland copses, unified by shallow valley sides and possessing a generally unspoilt, quiet and rural character.
“Although the surrounding landscape does not have national designation, it is nevertheless considered that it possesses a distinctive quality with a quiet rural character that is sensitive to change. In view of the scale of the proposals and the extent of the area affected, it is considered that the cumulative effects on landscape character that could result from the development are potentially significant. Adjacent rights of way that run adjacent to and close to the site, are also likely to be significantly affected in visual amenity terms and this would be particularly evident during the months of the year when vegetation is not in full leaf,” say the landscape team.
If the proposals were pursued the applicants would seek to develop a solar farm across the site with solar panels, and would include a substation compound and a number of transformer or battery storage containers distributed across the site. The information on these structures has not been detailed and there is no other information on any other equipment required ie: security cameras or fencing around the site. The height and size of the structures has also not been submitted.
“All of this information is required to establish the impact on the landscape character and any visual impacts the proposed solar site may have, “says the landscape team.
“It is therefore considered that the effects of the proposals are likely to be significant and the impacts on the landscape character of the area, as well as visual amenity, would need to be suitably assessed. Further information regarding the size and scale of the proposed development along with information about ancillary equipment and fencing should also be submitted to enable the assessment of the impact.”
Full details of the application can be found here – https://planning.basingstoke.gov.uk/online-applications/simpleSearchResults.do?action=firstPage
See full application on BDBC website here
Application number 21/00280/ENSC
BDBC site address – https://planning.basingstoke.gov.uk/online-applications