An interesting decision has been taken this week by the Secretary of State to overturn the recommendation of their appointed Inspector, and grant planning permission for the sub-50MW solar scheme on land west of New Works Lane, Telford, Shropshire.

One of the key issues in the planning appeal, and a reason for it to be noteworthy, is the fact that the site was in close proximity to the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

Consenting projects in close proximity to sensitive (landscape) designations always requires a well-thought out strategy to ensure both the design of the project minimises impacts,  but also critically that the strategy is clearly explained to the decision maker. 

In the Secretary of State's Decision Letter it is clear that both he and the Inspector considered the scheme to have been "carefully thought out".  However, the SoS was also persuaded that there was "very limited harm to the setting of the AONB, which carries very limited weight against the proposal".   The significant weight accorded to the need for the production of low carbon electricity generation led to the SoS overturning the Inspector's recommendation for refusal, and choosing to grant planning permission.

This is an interesting decision in its own right.  But as the solar industry waits on the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to publish the revised National Policy Statements for Energy for consultation, and with today's publication of the "powering up Britain" Strategy, it gives an insight into current ministerial priorities.