Solar Farm April DC Committee meeting outcome – Application refused permission

Great News!  Refusal of planning application;

Many thanks; and Next steps

Planning permission has been refused for the proposed massive and inappropriate 210-acre Industrial Solar Park in Bramley primarily for being in the wrong place and of the wrong size.
The Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Development Control Committee met on April 20th to consider the ENSO Energy application to build an enormous Industrial Solar Park between Bramley and Silchester on green open countryside and prime agricultural land — and on top of a Roman Villa which is part of Silchester’s archaeological heritage. The Planning Officer’s recommendation had been to grant permission for the proposal on the basis that the immense damage that it caused was “temporary”.
After passionate speeches from both Bramley and Silchester Parish Councils, our Borough Ward Councillor, the Solar Farm Residents Group and then the applicant, some robust debate took place between the committee members.
All committee members and all the campaign members recognised the climate emergency and the need for us all to do something, but significant concern was expressed by the Committee members that this proposal, being the first of its kind put forward to the Committee for consideration, was in the wrong place and is the wrong size.

In particular they discussed:

  • the damage to our community’s local environment, being the loss of most of the open space north of Bramley;
  • the damage to Silchester’s archaeological environment by inserting concrete piles into the ground and the loss of ability to excavate and explore the Roman Villa for at least 40 years;
  • the fire risk to the ancient woodlands and field crops from the batteries and inverters;
  • the loss of food production capability and the impact on the wildlife, including the deer who roam freely; and 
  • that the 40-year licence is not “temporary” and, for many of the community, this would be for the rest of their lifetime.

The committee noted that the Borough already contributes significantly to renewable schemes through a range of initiatives including the incinerator generating energy and putting solar panels on its own rooftops.  After a healthy debate, the Committee voted to refuse permission by 11 votes to 1.The actual proceedings, including some great speeches, can be viewed, in full, on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YItmlvyCYu0)

Many thanks

The Solar Farm Residents Group would like to thank all those who have worked tirelessly for almost two years to oppose this massive and unwelcome scheme and who generated 684 written objections to the proposals, in particular thank you to:

  • the Bramley and Silchester Parish Councils who both objected to the scheme and spoke up against it;
  • our existing local Borough Councillors who advised on how the planning processes work;
  • the public who have demonstrated that our community values its heavily used footpaths among green fields and its Roman heritage and that they don’t want them to be concreted over;
  • and finally, the BDBC Development Committee, for its diligent analysis of the pros and cons of this particular proposal.

The Solar Farm Residents Group is a non-political organisation, and it has been good to see that Councillors from all Political Parties were united, worked together, and turned out, to fully support objections in order to ensure this inappropriate proposal was refused at the BDBC Development Committee.  

Next steps

The next step is to wait and see how ENSO decide to react to the refusal.   Hopefully, like similar greenfield proposals in Hampshire recently withdrawn by other developers, they might take heed of the strength of public feeling against this misuse of our highly valued landscape and prime farmland reverting with a more appropriate brownfield proposal.  In the meantime, our Group is developing some thinking on where best to promote renewable energy generation in the borough; please do contribute to this thinking if you have ideas.