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Planners approve The solar farm - Updated 14th March 2014

East Hants Planning has granted permission to Construct a Solar Array on ground to the south of Gaston Lane. Despite local objections permission was granted following a favourable report from the planning officer .

The report below was originally published in January

 

The January meeting of Farringdon Parish Council was unusually well attended, with an audience numbering around thirty, from Farringdon and the neighbouring parish of Worldham. Although a sudden resurgence in interest in the activities of Parish Council is welcome, the main item of interest was the inclusion in the Agenda of an Open Planning meeting to allow public discussion of the revised planning application, to install a Solar Power Array beside Gaston Lane.

 

Before the meeting started Edwin Macknamara, (right) who will be taking over from Roger Browne (centre) as Acting Parish Clerk after this meeting, found his first duty was to make the monthly draw for the Village Hall Hundred Club, administered by David Horton (left).

This proved to be good news for one member of the Farringdon Parish Council, as Councillor David Williams was the winner of the 1st Prize of £39.00, with Claire Wallace taking the second prize of £26.00.

With the early formalities completed business swiftly moved on to the main item of interest with an open discussion chaired by Planning Committee Chairman, Jeremy Cowan.

Under the current rules discussion was limited to the revisions made since the initial application came under public scrutiny at a very well attended meeting held in All Saints Church last year.

The latest application is, in essence, similar to the original but with some reduction in the height of the panels on the more visible parts of the site, amendments to avoid any lasting disturbance to any resident newts and other wild life and more details of the construction and access to the site.

 

Apart from a procedural issue concerning the lack of Public Notices on the site, most objectors were concerned about the traffic and the route it might or might not take take during construction of the site.

One problem here was the fact that Lightsource Energy, the applicants, are still in discussion with the Highway Authority over the precise route which would be used by lorries transporting materials to and returning empty from the site if the application was successful. The reinstatement of the original culvert to the west of the actual field entrance is now the preferred access to the site but it is the routing of lorries via New Road and possibly Gaston Lane that causes most concern to the audience.

The potential safety concerns of allowing several empty lorries a day to exit the site via New Road, particularly around the fenced playground area at the top of Parsonage Close. If this route is also designated as the access route, which is a possibility, the lorries will be loaded, which could create more problems

The alternative access from the Selborne Road via Gaston Lane was also a cause for concern for residents of both Farringdon and Worldham parishes. Councillor Honor Garrard, who has already been in communication with EHDC on this issue, made the point that the District Council were reluctant to allow access by this route.

The Round House junction has always been potentially dangerous, as the sight lines for for vehicles exiting onto the busy Selborne road are very poor. Even in this was to be adopted as the approved access route one would presume the Highways Authority would only allow access from the North, via the A31, to avoid creating further problems with lorry traffic through Selborne.

If this were the case, lorries turning right into Gaston Lane would have a clear view of oncoming traffic and into the top of Gaston Lane, but the width of the lane and the lack of passing places would cause problems for other road users heading out of Farringdon.

In response to questions about the responsibility of the Applicant in relation to damage to highways, The Chairman made the point that road widening was not an option but the applicant would be liable for any damage to the road surface or edges caused by construction traffic.

Another concern was that, under the current rules in place for Parish Councils, public comments at this meeting were restricted to revisions or additions to the original application. This being the case, would the objections raised at the previous meeting in 2013, which are still relevant, be taken into account when the revised application comes before the East Hampshire District Council. The Parish Council had already raised this point and were somewhat concerned by the ambivalent response from EHDC, although assurances were given that the Parish Council would seek clarity on this issue.

The with no further questions forthcoming the Planning Committee went into closed session to consider the official response to the Application. The recommendation was the application be refused, with the proviso that should the application be approved by the EHDC, conditions should be applied regarding, access, reparations, landscaping, size of planting, replacing of dieback, and decommissioning.

After the meeting, one or two of the audience were expressing the view that there should have been a special planning meeting devoted exclusively to this issue, with no preset restrictions on time or which sections of the application objections could be raised. On the evidence of the Open Planning meetings held on this and other major planning issues in the last few months, it would appear that these views are misguided.

The current system is far more manageable and effective. No one who wishes to raise a particular objection has been prevented from doing so. The two minute time limit allows ample time for speakers to make their point, while putting an end to some of the off piste and pointless meanderings and repetitions that have been featured in these events in the past.

We are fortunate that the current Chairman of the Planning Committee, Jeremy Cowan, has proved to be a very effective manager of these events, indeed both he and Honor Garrard should be congratulated for the considerable time and effort they have devoted to both this and other contentious applications on behalf of the Village since they have been in office.

(Draft Minutes of the January 2014 Parish Council Meeting and archived reports from previous meetings are available on the Parish pages )

There is one concern, an application for a Solar farm on a 27 ac site (just under 11ha) between Bentley and Dippenhall was opposed by Waverley Borough Council and subsequently refused by East Hampshire District Council under delegated powers in 2012.

The applicant subsequently lodged an appeal and after consideration the decision of the Planning Authority was overruled by the Government Inspector on the grounds that " . . . only slight harm . . ." would be caused to the landscape. Permission has now been granted for construction to proceed.

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