Preston Farms are moving ahead with its plans to develop a vast new solar farm near Preston Candover, and have submitted an application for full planning permission to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. A decision is expected at the end of January; a year to when the plans were first revealed.
Preston Farms are seeking to develop a solar farm across the site, larger than 70 football fields, with solar panels, which would include a substation compound and a number of transformer or battery storage containers distributed across the site.
The proposed site for the solar panels, capable of generating 28 megawatt of electricity, comprises three fields within gently sloping open countryside to the north-west of the village. It is not likely to be visible from the village itself but may be seen from the recreation ground and other high ground to the south.
The site off Church Lane covers 116 acres in open country to the north-west of the village of Preston Candover on farm land owned by Lord and Lady Sainsbury. The site is within the Candovers Parish Council area but the main impact of the development, if approved, will be in Preston Candover.
In a document circulated to local residents it is stated that construction and operating vehicles will be routed along the B3046 and use the existing farm access road to reach the site and “off-site cabling works are proposed which will run south-east to the point of connection.”
It is now confirmed that the ‘point of connection’ will be the electricity sub-station in Wield Road, next to the recreation ground. Initially, it was thought this would have a significant environmental impact on the village as it was planned to bring the cabling through the village, along Alresford Road (B3046) from the junction with Bugmore Lane, past the church and up Wield Road. See detailed location plan and site plan - 21_00280_ENSC-LOCATION_PLAN-5808809 and 21_00280_ENSC-SOLAR_PARK_LAYOUT-5808810
However, details of the proposed route for the overhead cabling have now been given. and it is currently planned to route the cabling to the west of the village across open fields and close to the southern boundary of the recreation ground and approach the sub-station along Wield Road from the south. See map here-Solar Farm power line route
Much detailed information about the development is contained in 55 documents and plans supporting the application, all of which can be viewed and downloaded from the planning section of the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s website. The application number is 21/03398/FUL. See link here.
Preliminary notice of Preston Farms’ plans were first revealed in an application submitted in January 2021 to Basingstoke planning officers for advice on screening options and a decision was issued on 15 February and published later. The Landscape team at BDBC were concerned that the planned site for this solar farm covers an area of high-quality arable land and could require the clearance of several old hedges and have a major impact on the rural character of the area. This project introduces an industrial activity into an agricultural environment. However, the Basingstoke planners decided not to ask for an Environmental Impact Assessment as part of the main application, despite the previously expressed concerns of the Landscape Team.
The landscape report says that the 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, both 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.
“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.”
Natural England has also been consulted. It is a non-departmental public body whose statutory purpose is to ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced, and managed for the benefit of present and future generations. It has concluded that on the information available to it at the time, that “there are potential likely significant effects on statutorily designated nature conservation sites or landscapes and further assessment is required”. It says the proposed development is located within, or partly within, and has the potential for adverse effects on the designated nature conservation sites or designated landscapes of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
See planning opinion on landscape assessment - Solar Farm – screening opinion
See full application on BDBC website here:
Application number 21/03398/FUL
BDBC site address – https://planning.basingstoke.gov.uk/online-applications
More information from BSR Energy is available here.