A similar application for 35,000 panels in 2013 was rejected by Guildford Borough Council
BY BECCA TAYLOR
Plans for a huge solar farm in the green belt have been lodged again, despite a rejection and a dismissed appeal in the last two years.
Solar Power South has submitted a revised application to Guildford Borough Council for up to 30,000 solar panels on Eashing Farm in Eashing Lane for a temporary period of 25 years.
The company lodged a similar application for 35,000 panels in 2013, which was rejected by the council, and an appeal was dismissed by the planning inspectorate.
Eashing Farm is currently used as arable farmland and the site measures around 35 acres in size.
The previous application and appeal were dismissed on the grounds that the development was harmful to the green belt and to the area of outstanding natural beauty. In his appeal dismissal letter, planning inspector Andrew Hammond noted the farm would be visible in short and long distance views within the area of great landscape value and that trees planted to shield some of it from view would in fact shield it from the overall countryside appearance.
Changes to this application include a 10metre wide woodland buffer to be planted on the south west, west and north boundaries, providing a better buffer to the site, and two lines of double hedgerows to be planted across the site to provide intermediate visual screening.
Google Street View
The start of Eashing Lane
The applicant has also pledged a pond and buffer in the southwest corner, and that the northwest corner will be left as a meadow.
These changes have failed to impress the Surrey Hills AONB board, which still advises rejection of the new application.
Clive Smith, Surrey Hills AONB planning adviser, said: “The amendments would be likely to reduce the landscape and visual impact of the proposed development to some extent.
“I have also taken account of the assessments made within the submitted Landscape and Visual Impact Appraisal.
“But the main point is, as the inspector identified, that providing tree and other screening shuts out currently valued public views across open countryside.
“Tree and hedgerow screen planting is proposed by a host of development proposals in Surrey’s protected landscapes.“If that were accepted as justification to grant permission for development it is capable of being repeated many times over and encourage further development proposals.
“The cumulative effect would be for many landscape views to be obscured and no longer be enjoyed by the public.”
Eashing resident Neil Smith said: “I objected strongly to the 2013 application for a solar panel farm on land that borders my property. s the 2015 application is a ‘resubmission’ with little material change to the application it is no surprise I should object strongly to the current application.
“The application threatens to damage the openness of the green belt for at least 25 years and the ‘very special circumstances’ for making a green belt exception do not exist.”
Mr Smith said the plan was the ‘wrong development in the wrong place’ and the renewable energy should not be a reason to damage the environment.
In 2013, the company was criticised for the way it ran a public consultation.
The event was held in Shackleford, with many Eashing residents unaware it was going on until the last minute.