The Planning Inspectorate has decided not to allow a solar farm to be built at Trimmers Farm, near Beggars Corner, on a site that straddles Hook and Winchfield parishes. The implication of this decision is that it also likely scuppers the proposed Hartley Winchook new town. The full decision can be downloaded from the button below.
The main reason given by the planning inspector was that the solar farm “would cause substantial harm to the character and appearance of the surrounding landscape”. Although the inspector did also say that ” the proposal would make a valuable contribution to the cutting of greenhouse gas emissions. It would also assist in securing the ongoing viability of the farm enterprise”. The more detailed assessment of the harm said:
From my own observations and having regard to the appellants’ photomontages and Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV), the solar farm would have an adverse visual impact which would significantly detract from the visual amenity of the area. Having taken into account the presence of the railway, motorway and pylons I consider that the proposal would consolidate the spread of man-made features across the skyline and add to the creeping urbanising effect on the area, thereby exacerbating the resultant harm to the landscape character and visual amenity. In conclusion the level of harm to the character and appearance of the landscape would be significant and would conflict with LP saved Policies GEN10, GEN1, GEN3, CON23, RUR2 and RUR3.
The implications of this could be quite interesting as the same Beggars Corner site is contained in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment as SHL 167, and is included in the proposals for the proposed new town at Winchfield. We have written before that 772 houses were proposed to be built on the former land fill site.
However, we find it difficult to believe that 772 houses, many of which might have solar panels on their roofs, would have a lower visual impact or create less creeping urbanisation than a solar farm. Of course, the challenges of building houses on landfill would be much greater than installing solar panels.
As can be seen from the image below, the removal of SHL167 from the new town plan would effectively isolate two halves of the proposed new town, with the Murrell Green sites being disconnected from the other sites. This will compromise sustainability and will also reduce the housing capacity.
We have previously challenged the viability of the new town plan, as have Winchfield Parish Council. However, to re-cap, the SHLAA suggests that the housing capacity of the new town sites is in the range 6,500-7,500. But not enough space has been set aside for SANG, or for sports facilities, schools, shops, car-parks or community facilities. Making allowance for these elements would reduce capacity to 4,000-5,000. Removing the 772 houses from SHL167 would further reduce the capacity to 3,228-4,228, which is well below the minimum viability threshold of 5,000 dwellings.