There has been a very interesting decision by a PINS Inspector on a co-located solar and battery energy storage system (BESS) scheme known as the Gunthorpe Road Solar Farm near Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. At a time when much has been said about the importance of best and most versatile land (BMV) for agricultural and food security purposes, this decision demonstrates the weight which can be placed on the transition to Net Zero and the delivery of renewable energy in the planning regime.
The Gunthorpe Road scheme is a 39MW scheme, which being located in Cambridgeshire is (perhaps unsurprisingly), entirely on grade 1 land for agricultural land classification purposes. The Inspector’s report notes that all other nearby land would be grade 1 or 2. That siting decision meant that the Inspector was not able to find compliance with the relevant national, or local, planning policy.
However, he went on to allow the appeal and grant planning permission for the scheme, on the basis that “BMV land is plentiful in the Councils’ administrative areas and the proposal would utilise a small amount of that land”. Because of the location of the point of connection of the scheme to the electricity network, it could “not be located on previously developed land or non-BMV land”.
We are seeing a lot of solar schemes (in particular) dealing with the tension between agricultural demands and the broader need for renewable generation to come online, at pace. As one might expect, there are a range of approaches amongst those wielding that discretion. Helpfully in this case for the developer, the weight of policy supporting the urgent need was enough to get their scheme over the line.
Please do drop me a line if you would like a copy of the appeal - firstname.lastname@example.org