Planning permission was granted by South Cambridgeshire District Council on 14 April 2022 for a major solar park to be located on Best and Most Versatile Agricultural Land (BMVAL). While development plan and national policy seeks to direct development away from BMVAL, solar PV development is a critical contributor to the UK’s Net Zero decarbonisation and climate change targets. The proposed development will be capable of exporting up to 50MW per annum to the national grid, enough power for more than 14,000 homes.
The committee followed the officer report recommendation, which concluded that although BMVAL would be lost for the duration (37 years) of the proposal, “alternative sites on both developed land and poorer quality agricultural land have been considered and the sequential analysis successfully demonstrates that there would be no better alternative sites close to the grid connection, therefore meeting the compelling evidence test.”
Critically, the committee report found that, “the proposed development would provide renewable energy for a considerable number of homes which would make an important contribution towards climate change objectives” and “would also provide some agricultural grazing use and would enhance biodiversity”. The report concluded that “the significant public benefits of the scheme in addition to other benefits are considered to outweigh the identified adverse impacts of the development.”
Stephen Tromans QC and Daniel Stedman Jones were instructed by the successful applicant, Solarcentury Ltd.