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Staplehurst: Great Pagehurst solar farm application appeal rejected

By Ed McConnell

An appeal against Maidstone council's rejection of plans to build a huge solar farm in Staplehurst has been thrown out.

Developers Sunsave 22 wanted to build the 63,888-panel plant on 70-hectare Great Pagehurst Farm, in Pagehurst Road, Staplehurst.

The structure would have been encased in 2.1-metre tall fencing and was judged by both the council and inspector to represent a significant threat to the landscape.

Solar farm activists celebrate their victory
Solar farm activists celebrate their victory

The decision brings an end to four years of uncertainty surrounding the site, with the initial application lodged in August 2013 before being rejected last February. The appeal was lodged last April.

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant hopes the unsuccessful appeal will stop developers fighting council decisions in future.

Planning inspector Andrew Hammond concluded: "The harms to the intrinsic and visual qualities of the landscape are substantial, both in significance and scale, and would not be mitigated by the landscape proposals which seek to screen the development from view rather than integrate it into its setting in a satisfactory manner."

Campaigners at Great Pagehurst Farm
Campaigners at Great Pagehurst Farm

Mrs Grant said: "This is such great news for our countryside and for the many local campaigners who have battled so hard, for so long. It builds upon the recent appeal dismissal regarding housing development at Fant Farm, where harm to the qualities of the landscape was the key factor. I am absolutely delighted with the outcome."

She added: "The decision adds considerable weight to campaigns opposing other inappropriate planning schemes, such as the proposed housing development at Vicarage Road in Yalding. I hope the Maidstone Borough Council will take heart that their refusals are being vindicated. Perhaps developers will now be less confident in appealing future decisions."

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