A solar photovoltaic (PV) development in Purleigh, Essex, has been granted planning permission following a successful appeal. Initial reasons for refusal cited the impact upon the natural built and historic environment as well as glint and glare. The subsequent appeal provided evidence to overcome these original issues.
Back in 2015 a planning application for a 5MW solar farm was submitted by the developer which would have the capacity to power 1,500 homes a year with energy fed back into the power grid. The solar farm was originally recommended for approval.
However local councillors raised concerns regarding glint and glare towards the adjacent Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome, located approximately 700m from the solar development location. The original Glint and Glare Assessment, completed by Pager Power, concluded that solar reflections were possible however ‘based on the restricted times at which effects could occur and the location of any potentially affected aircraft, this potential impact is considered minor’. These concerns, amongst others, eventually led to an initial planning refusal.
Fast forward through into 2016 and a planning appeal was made by the developer. As part of the appeal, a qualified pilot stated the following:
‘I am a qualified pilot. I have never landed at Stow Maries airfield, but from my extensive experience, if I attempted to do so in poor weather conditions, I would find the presence of the nearby solar farm a great help in identifying the airfield. This is particularly relevant taking into account that there are no hard runways, which would have helped in identification.’
Figure 1: Typical ground mounted solar development
In April 2017 the appeal decision was received which granted planning permission. The Planning Inspector, Graham Dudley, stated the following with respect to the impact upon adjacent Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome:
‘For the appeal, aerial photographs have been provided that show the solar panels as seen from the airfield. To my mind, these photographs, while showing that the panels would be visible, also indicate that because of the distance, the visual impact of the panels would be limited and would be a small part of the wide countryside setting; the overall impact would be limited. I therefore consider that with this extra information the Historic England initial assessment of modest impact with no more than minor harm is reasonable.’
In the concluding two paragraphs titled ‘Planning Balance’ the following is stated:
‘…I attach great weight to the provision of renewable and low carbon energy, which is a substantial public benefit. I acknowledge that there would be some harm to the countryside and to the setting of the listed building and conservation area.
However, the harm is modest and minor and whilst attaching great weight to impact on these assets, I conclude that the public benefit of the provision of renewable energy out weighs that harm. Overall the proposal would have a significant social role in provision of renewable energy, would generate some economic benefits particularly during construction and overall, while accepting that there would be environmental harm, would on balance be sustainable development. While the proposal would not fully accord with the development plan policy as a whole, I find that the benefits form a considerable material consideration that warrant a decision other than in accordance with the development plan.’
The solar farm has now received planning permission.
 Email from Richard Creak, ex RAF Flying Officer, 25 July 2016, as part of a third party representation, 8 August 2016. Maldon District Council Planning Portal. Planning reference 15/00779/FUL. Document reference FUL/MAL/15/00779. Last accessed 02.06.17.
 © Delaware Cooperative Extension 2014, Poultry Field Day Solar Panel (resized). Last accessed 06.06.17.
 Appeal Decision, 25 April 2017. Appeal Ref: APP/X1545/W/16/3150701. Maldon District Council Planning Portal. Planning reference 15/00779/FUL. Last accessed 02.06.17.