Mid Devon Solar Farm Refused – July 2021

Mid Devon councillors refuse huge solar farm with a battery storage facility against planning officer’s recommendations

Local residents backed by Devon CPRE have thanked Mid Devon councillors for going against the recommendations of their own Planning Officer and refusing permission for a huge 150-acre solar farm with a battery storage facility at Langford.

Members of Mid Devon’s planning committee voted 7 to 3 to turn down the controversial application, which had generated overwhelming opposition from the public and consultees. The council had received 150 letters of response, nearly all objections.

After deferring a decision in late March pending a site visit, councillors concluded their discussions and rejected the application at around 8 pm on Wednesday evening (14th July) towards the end of a marathon planning meeting lasting almost six hours.

In a 3-minute statement to the committee, Devon CPRE’s energy spokesman Dr Phillip Bratby had argued against the proposed solar farm, which extended to over a mile in length across 17 fields. Dr Bratby told members: “The Council’s own independent assessment has shown that parts of the solar farm would have a major adverse impact on the landscape. You can refuse it on the grounds of its more than substantial harm to the view of Grade II* Langford Court and you can refuse it on the grounds of the loss of the agricultural production from more than 150 acres of farmland… In its entirety, this massive proposal would be a blight on Devon’s countryside, is totally unacceptable and we ask you to salve your consciences at the potential profits to be made from forced Chinese labour and refuse the application on the grounds that it clearly fails to meet the requirements of Policies S9 and DM2.”

Welcoming the decision to reject the proposal for an implications report, Dr Phil Bratby said, “This is a great result for Devon’s countryside, for the local community, for common sense and for local democracy. There were about 150 objectors and only a handful of supporters of the proposal. However, the London-based applicant no doubt has deep pockets and we suspect that he may appeal the decision. The local community has already had to endure nearly two years with this awful proposal hanging over their heads and they are prepared to fight on. Devon CPRE has lots of experience of appeals and will be thoroughly prepared to fight one, whether it be by written representation, a hearing or a public inquiry'”.

Responding to the decision to refuse the solar farm and battery storage facility at Langford, resident Jan Jones told Devon CPRE:

“We are absolutely thrilled to bits that we have won this battle, but we haven’t won the war. We will continue to campaign against all solar farms in Devon on agricultural land. The more I find out about solar farms, the more passionately I feel that we should be looking at other forms of sustainable energy instead of covering our fields in solar panels.

“I’d like to thank all the residents who have supported us in opposing this development and especially Devon CPRE’s Dr Phil Bratby for all his support. We would not have got this far without him. Several neighbours were here with us last night listening to the long planning meeting. We were delighted that councillors saw reason and we certainly celebrated afterwards.

“One of our main concerns, if it did go ahead, is that there is no way that after 40 years this would go back to agricultural land. It would become a brownfield site and it would be developed. I sympathise with the farmers trying to make a living and we need to support them so land remains in agricultural use.”

Devon CPRE Director Penny Mills commented, “Councillors are to be congratulated for listening to our counter arguments against what would have been the largest solar farm in Devon to date. They recognised that the proposal was too big, would have had an adverse impact on the landscape and would have resulted in the loss of productive agricultural land.

She added, “It’s too early to say if we are seeing the tide starting to turn against these large-scale solar farms on Devon’s green fields but, encouragingly, councillors did raise concerns about the cumulative effect of so many solar farms and didn’t feel the developer had supplied sufficient information. Devon CPRE is winning a lot of support for our ‘Save our Fields from Solar Farms’ campaign. We are delighted to have achieved this outcome for local residents.”

See our latest short video – we talk to Dr John Constable from the Renewable Energy Foundation about solar farms