Proposals for a new solar plant to be built on farmland outside Brentwood, UK, have been approved.
Brentwood Borough Council’s planning committee gave the green light on 23 November, citing the clean energy benefits of the project – enough to supply one third of Brentwood’s electricity.
The solar farm, being developed by Low Carbon, will generate approximately 30MW – enough to power 10,000 homes.
By unanimously approving the solar panel farm on Herongate farmland, councillors have overridden planning officers’ recommendations that the proposal is unacceptable on the grounds “it would result in development in the greenbelt outside any exception listed in the National Planning Policy Framework”.
Councillors insisted the plans should be categorised as a special circumstance.
James Hartley-Bond, head of project development for solar at Low Carbon, said: “The development will turn a site which has been found to be of low biodiversity value into something genuinely providing net gain.”
Mrs Maria Pearson, Councillor for Cons, Herongate, Ingrave and West Horndon, said: “This farm sits on green belt land and greenbelt land and its protection is gravely important.
“However placing these farms on green belt land does not remove its green belt status. It’s green belt now and it’ll be green belt in 40 years time when the structures are removed again.
“This solar farm gives us the opportunity to provide clean green renewable energy to nearly 10,000 homes a year in this borough.
“Solar energy is not a fad, it’s a necessity and will be even more important in the years to come.
“Both parish councils in my ward Herongate and West Horndon in particular are supportive of this farm and there have been no objections from any resident or any business in my ward.”
Councillor Gareth Barrett, Lab, brentwood South, said: “Brentwood is surrounded by greenbelt and in fact we’re actually in our local development plan choosing to build residential in the very close vicinity to this area.
“I think that we have to talk the talk as well as walk the walk in this council and unfortunately the only sites possible in Brentwood are on the green belt in terms of some of these green technologies.
“And it would be inappropriate to build solar farms on brown belt when we’ve got such a big housing need.”
The decision will now be referred to the Communities Secretary.
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