As you may be aware a further planning application for a Solar Plant has been resubmitted.
It is as important as ever to ensure that your concerns and objections are submitted to HBC before the deadline of 23rd July 2022.
Please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or by portal (www.hertsmere.gov.uk/planningsearch) which has a 5000 character limit
or by post to: Planning Department, Hertsmere Borough Council, Elstree Way, Borehamwood, Herts WD6 1WA
Letchmore Heath Village Trust (LHVT) was established to promote high standards of planning and to secure the preservation and protection of features of historic or public interest in the area. Accordingly LHVT objects to this application for the following reasons:
- This land has been deliberately protected by the Green Belt designation to prevent urban sprawl. The development would have a substantial visual impact on the land so that instead of views of agricultural land, residents and members of the public will be subjected to endless visual clutter, including a sea of solar panels, destroying the character of the area. The proposal will also add spatial clutter as it would permanently alter the openness of the Green Belt, to the detriment of its character and appearance. Any identified benefits would not amount to very special circumstances outweighing the harm caused, as required by the NPPF.
- The proposals conflict with policies in the Local Plan.
- There would be a significant level of harm to the setting of designated heritage assets which would not be outweighed by public benefit. In addition although only several heritage assets are referred to in the application there are actually 41 Listed buildings within 1 kilometre of the proposed site and not enough attention has been given to the effect on these.
- A “temporary consent “of 35 years does not mitigate the loss of Green Belt. This length of time is to all intents and purposes a permanent use with a significant and detrimental impact on the openness of the Green Belt for an extended period of time. There is no confidence that these 320 acres, once lost, will ever be recovered as open Green Belt land.
- The proposed development is not the best use of the land. Although solar energy is a public benefit, the proposal would result in the loss of many important existing public benefits. Government policy towards acceleration of carbon reduction should not override these considerations which are particularly inappropriate on Green Belt land in close proximity to London.
- There will be a highly detrimental impact on 12 footpaths and bridleways across the site. The pedestrian routes have been regularly walked by local residents from Radlett, Letchmore Heath and Bushey for many years. They provided a vital resource for ‘lockdown’ people to safely exercise in an outdoor area. The 5 metre stand-off proposed on either side of public rights of way, in such close proximity to solar panels, will result in a tunnelling effect leading to a loss of openness and enjoyment of this much used network. The sheer size of the solar plant and its associated equipment will destroy the benefits that public rights of way offer people.
- LHVT is very concerned that the proposal will lead to an increased risk of flooding elsewhere. On the previous, broadly similar, application (21/0050/FULEI) the Lead Local Flood Authority (Flood Risk & Drainage Team Hertfordshire County Council) actively objected to the application. Despite a revised Flood Risk Assessment submitted to the Local Planning Authority in April 2021, they still maintained their objection and recommended refusal. The NPPF requires that development should not increase the risk of flooding elsewhere.
- The loss of productive agricultural land diminishes the important ability to maintain and enhance food security at a time when this is a national priority. The best use should be made of agricultural land, particularly adjacent to urban and heavily populated areas. Taking this land out of food production for the purpose of providing energy is wasteful and unnecessary when many other non-productive site opportunities for solar energy operations exist elsewhere.
- The enhancement of biodiversity is insufficient to compensate for the loss of open Green Belt land.
- The application fails to demonstrate that the impact of the proposals can be made acceptable to the residential community, as required by the NPPF. Whilst the NPPF provides that communities have a responsibility to help increase the use and supply of green energy, this does not mean that the need for renewable energy automatically overrides environmental protections. We have concerns relating to the likelihood of noise generated by inverters, potential fire hazards from the batteries and subsequent leeching of highly toxic gases and also concerns over the safety of flying activities at the Elstree Aerodrome, due to upward reflection of the sun on the solar panels.
- Whilst it is recognised that renewable energy is an important requirement, the impact of these developments and whether they are in the right place is of paramount importance too. The adverse impact on the surrounding area’s landscape character, visual amenity and substantial loss of Green Belt renders the scheme unacceptable. The applicant’s Alternative Site Assessment, filed as a supporting document, is noted. However the applicant’s proposal is for a solar plant of such vast size that it will dwarf most other UK solar plants. It is therefore unsurprising that alternative sites for a proposal of this magnitude may be difficult to find. In addition to all of our submissions above, the proposal is simply too large.
HBC should stand by its previous decision and reject this new application.