Unable to support!

Dorset Council’s Senior Landscape Officer concludes that she is unable to support the North Dairy Farm Solar Planning Application.

Despite the developer proposing significant additions and revisions to the 2020 plans, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Council’s landscape professional experts have said they are unable to support the plans.

Here is the Senior Landscape Officer’s full consultation response to the Planning Case Officer

At 77ha the proposed development would be one of the largest solar PV developments in the southwest. The site is located in a landscape that is highly sensitive to large scale solar PV development, and although the proposals now include further mitigation measures, I still do not consider that these measures would satisfactorily offset the significant adverse landscape and visual effects that would occur. This would result in a significant change in character of the local
landscape and would also adversely affect the setting of the AONB, most particularly given the interrelationship between clay/rolling vale character of the local landscape that the site is located in, and the chalk escarpment landscape of the AONB.

There would also be significant adverse effects on views from Rights of Way to the east of the site, most especially where these extend across the site to Dungeon Hill Scheduled Ancient Monument/the AONB to the west.

For these reasons, I am still not able to support the application as the proposals in their current form do not comply with the requirements of paragraph 154 or paragraph 170 of the NPPF or Policies 3 and 4 of the North Dorset Local Plan.

In addition to this, no restoration scheme has been provided so the proposal does not fully comply with the requirements of Policy 22 of the North Dorset Local Plan.

The AONB Unit notes that the landscape that the site sits within ‘possesses a relatively strong visual and perceptual relationship with the designated area, would experience a number of adverse effects due to the proposed development’.

The semi-natural landscape of the site and its setting contains few detracting elements. (NB I disagree with the statement under para 142 of the LVIA that there is a ‘utilitarian aspect to the local landscape’.

Solar panels are also engineered products that have an industrial appearance. They
are not, inherently, products that fit into a countryside environment. 35 years is also a long period of time in planning terms, and in the Tithe Barn Lane Appeal the inspector gave little weight to the reversibility the scheme which in that case was to be removed after 25 years (APP/D2320/A/14/2222025 Land at Tithe Barn Lane, Heapey, Chorley, Lancashire).

As a result, I stand by the conclusion that I came to in my previous comments (04 June 2021) that the susceptibility, value and therefore sensitivity of the landscape that the site sits within is high. The significant adverse impacts on landscape character that I identified remain the same because the scale and extent of the proposals in this highly sensitive landscape has not substantially altered. The improvements to the management and structure of the landscape of the site will be outweighed by the harm to the character, tranquillity and naturalness of the site, its immediate context, and the wider verdant and intensely pastoral setting of the Blackmore Vale and the setting of the AONB.

Here is the Senior Landscape Officer’s full consultation response to the Planning Case Officer

© 2022

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