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Campaigners against Weald solar farms take heart from latest planning appeal rejections

By Alan Smith

Residents who are battling proposals for the construction of giant solar farms at various locations across the Weald countryside are taking heart this week from two Government appeal decisions over similar schemes proposed in Suffolk.

Shirley Roche, one of the residents campaigning against a bid by Vogt Solar to create a solar farm across 51 acres at Great Pagehurst Farm in Staplehurst, said the rulings should be a ”wake-up” call for Maidstone council’s planning department.

A Government inspector has upheld the decision by Babergh District Council to refuse Hive Energy permission to build a 38-hectare solar park on farming land at Tattingstone in Suffolk, citing the adverse visual effect on the neighbourhood and the applicant’s failure to search for a more suitable area.

A view of the existing Vogt solar farm at Manston

Inspector Elizabeth Ord said the scheme “would have a significant adverse impact on visual amenity in the vicinity of the site” and said that national planning guidance supported large-scale solar farms only on “previously developed and non-agricultural land, not of high environmental value”.

It was the first case to reach an appeal decision after tougher Government guidance on solar farms was issued in March.

Shortly after, a second appeal for a site 20 miles away at Hacheston was also rejected. The appeal ruling there also included the words: “the loss of a substantial area of productive agricultural land for at least 25 years is another negative factor.”

The scheme from the same company would have covered 127 acres with 100,000 solar panels.

The solar farm at Lenham, seen from Pilgrims Way, has already got through the planning system

It is believed there are currently 143 applications in the planning system for similar large-scale solar farms.

The examples are certain to be raised at a meeting organised by Ulcombe Parish Council on the whole topic of solar farms early next month.

The Headcorn area is facing its own solar controversy, with a planning application for a solar farm stretching across 157 acres at Great Tong Farm.

The meeting will be held in Headcorn Village Hall on Tuesday, July 1, starting at 7.30pm, when Rob Jarman, Maidstone council’s director of planning, will be among the guest speakers.

All are welcome to attend.

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