On 16 January 2023, the Welsh Ministers granted permission for the construction and operation of Renewable Connections’ 32MW Penpergwm Solar Farm in Monmouthshire. This is the first solar farm to be consented in the county for 5 years and the first to involve consideration of Best and Most Versatile Agricultural Land (“BMVAL”) since the Welsh Minister disagreed with the Inspector’s recommendation and refused permission for the Elwy solar scheme.
The Minister is careful to stress that her decision turns on the specific facts of this case considered in detail by the Inspector, namely:
- the Applicant’s approach to BMVAL, including its site selection process, variations to the scheme and agreed planning conditions to secure soil quality during construction and decommissioning;
- the Welsh Government’s Soil & Agricultural Land Use Planning Unit removing its objection to the inclusion of BMVAL within the development; and
- the support in Future Wales Policies 17 and 18 “for renewable energy schemes” and the benefits that the scheme would bring in terms of a contribution to Wales’ targets.
Although there was some discussion of the Applicant’s community benefit offer for the project at the hearing and specific reference was made in the decision to this, the Inspector and the Minister both made it clear that they gave the offer no weight in the recommendation and decision to approve the project.
Liz Dunn and Emily Kell-Rowan in our Planning & Compulsory Purchase team supported the Applicant and represented them at the DNS hearings - if you would like to discuss the impacts of this decision, please do not hesitate to contact them.