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Major solar farm refused in protected New Forest National Park

Major solar farm refused in protected New Forest National Park


A planning application to build more than 12,000 solar panels and two sub stations on a greenfield site the size of nearly 14 football pitches in the New Forest National Park has been unanimously refused.

The New Forest National Park Authority planning committee this week heard that the proposed 9.85 hectare scheme at Thornlands Farm, Fletchwood Road, Netley Marsh, went against national policy, primary legislation and the adopted New Forest National Park Local Plan.

National parks have the highest level of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty and they are designated by the Government to conserve and enhance the area.

National planning policy and associated guidance makes it clear that the general need for renewable or low carbon energy does not automatically override environmental protections.

Government planning policy states that the scale and extent of development within national parks should be limited. The National Park Authority’s view is that the scale of the Thornlands Farm solar proposals constituted ‘major development’. It is a long-standing national planning policy position that planning permission should be refused for major development in national parks other than in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated that the development is in the public interest. Major development proposals in National Parks must be assessed against a range of tests to be supported.

As well as being contrary to national guidance, the scheme did not comply with National Park planning policies which support small scale schemes to provide renewable energy for local households, business and community facilities. The National Park Authority continues to support a range of applications for renewable energy schemes (including solar) within the New Forest National Park that are consistent with the emphasis on small-scale developments. The application also did not adequately show that there would be no impact on wildlife and habitats.

The National Park Authority planning officer’s report said that while providing renewable energy was a benefit of the scheme, the applicants had not demonstrated that the site needed to be specifically located within the New Forest National Park – as opposed to a site outside the nationally protected landscape – and it was not linked to providing energy to a local business or community.  Neither did it take into account the grazing needs of commoners’ livestock.

Chair of the New Forest NPA Planning Committee Gordon Bailey said: ‘The Committee decided to refuse this application as the scale of it was not considered to be appropriate in the protected National Park landscape setting and the applicant hadn’t adequately demonstrated that it needed to be located here rather than on an alternative site outside the National Park.’

The National Park Authority has so far this year granted planning permission for a number of renewable energy developments that are appropriate to their setting and do not conflict with the statutory National Park purposes.

These have included 1,134 solar panels on car ports at Paultons Park, Ower; 96 panels at Efford Park, Everton; 48 panels at a farm in Bartley; 20 solar panels at Exbury House; 12 at SpudWorks in Sway. Many small-scale domestic developments incorporating solar panels such as outbuildings, extensions and replacement homes have also been approved.



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