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Solar farm to power 650 homes rejected due to visual impact on South Cambridgeshire countryside

A planning inspector has rejected plans for 4,580 solar panels because of the “harmful effect” they would have on the “unspoilt” South Cambridgeshire countryside.

The solar farm, proposed over 22 rows on land south east of Burton End, would have provided energy for more than 650 homes in the area.

A stock image of a solar farm
A stock image of a solar farm

It would have been in place for 25 years, after which it would have been decommissioned and returned to agricultural use.

Under the plans, submitted by David Lodge, sheep would have been allowed to graze the land.

The applicant suggested the visual impact of the solar farm on the wider landscape would be “mostly negligible”, adding: “The proposed development would make a significant contribution to achieving net zero by 2050 by increasing the amount of zero carbon renewable electricity generated and supplied to the National Grid. This would assist in decarbonising the UK’s energy production sector.”

But the application was refused by South Cambridgeshire District Council in 2021 as councillors felt it would be “highly visible” and result in a “visually incongruous and intrusive urban form of development that would be completely out of character with the surrounding open countryside and rural landscape”.

The council also argued the solar farm would lead to the loss of the “best and most versatile agricultural land”.

Appealing the decision, the applicant said the land was ‘grade 3b’ - and the planning inspector did not agree with the council’s concerns around the loss of agricultural land.

But the inspector did share concerns about the impact of the solar farm on the countryside, saying: “The attractive unspoilt open qualities of the appeal site would be replaced by regimented rows of uniform solar panels mounted on metal frames together with ancillary buildings.

“The homogenous and typically geometric form of the proposal together with its industrial appearance and dark finish would erode the rural character of the appeal site and diminish its contribution to the key landscape characteristics of the West Wickham Wooded Claylands area.

“Within this context, I find that the proposal would read as a highly obtrusive and discordant form of development. As such, it would have a harmful effect on the landscape.”

Although the solar farm would not have been permanent, the inspector noted 25 years was a long time.

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