You may already have seen the plans from EDF Renewables proposing to build a huge 2,100 acre Solar Farm on Claydon Estate land. Because of the size this becomes a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. This is managed and received by the Planning Inspectorate (or formerly by the Infrastructure Planning Commission). The process is significantly different from normal Planning applications (even Grendon Prison) and Bucks CC has a restricted input. To have any input the only time individuals or Parish Councils can have a say is at the initial consultation whether it’s for or against or feel it may need some adaptation.
Proposed Solar Farms & Battery Storage Facilities around the Claydons
Currently, we are aware of four major projects involving solar panels and/or battery storage facilities that will impact East and Botolph Claydon and beyond to Middle Claydon, Calvert, Granborough, North Marston and Hogshaw. These are at different stages of the planning process as follows:
19/00983/APP – Tuckey Farm, East Claydon Road (63 ha) 25 MW solar farm. Planning application APPROVED; work commenced.
23/01438/SO – Statera battery storage unit (500 MW), land between Hogshaw Road, Granborough and Sion Hill (29.5 ha) – Planning application pending.
23/01939/SO – Wings Farm – 49.9 MW solar farm. Land between Granborough Road and Hogshaw Road (70.7 ha). Screening opinion – No environmental impact assessment is required.
Consideration of each of these projects rests with Bucks Planning Authority and any comments should be directed to the Aylesbury Vale Area section of the authority.
The recently announced proposal by Rosefield Solar (a subsidiary of EDF Energy) is on a much larger scale. A 500 MW solar farm and associated infrastructure would encompass land, principally within the Claydon Estate, from Calvert in the west to the East Claydon sub-station in the east and from Orchard Way in the north to Finmere Wood in the south. The scale of this proposal means that it qualifies as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). As such, although Bucks Planning Authority can express an opinion on the planning proposal, it will be determined by the relevant Secretary of State (SoS). If approved, the SoS will issue a Development Consent Order (DCO).
There is a set procedure for reviewing such projects and it’s worth summarising the process and, in particular, how and at what stage individuals and interested bodies can express their views. This is important because there are limited opportunities to do so.
There are six stages as follows:
Before submitting an application, applicants have a statutory duty to carry out consultation on their proposals. This must be done in accordance with its Statement of Community Consultation (SoCC), having sought the views of the host local authority on its content. We are requesting a copy of this document. Responding to an applicant’s Pre-application consultation is the best time to influence a project, whether you agree with it, disagree with it, or believe it could be improved. As such, it is vital that as many residents as possible attend the advertised consultation events advertised and that you submit any comments in writing to Rosefield.
The Acceptance stage begins when an applicant submits an application for development consent to the Planning Inspectorate. They have 28 days to decide whether or not the application meets the standards required to be accepted for examination.
At this stage, the public will be able to register with the Planning Inspectorate to become an Interested Party by making a Relevant Representation. A Relevant Representation is a summary of a person’s views on an application, made in writing. An Examining Authority is also appointed at the Pre-examination stage, and all Interested Parties will be invited to attend a Preliminary Meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority. There is no statutory timescale for this stage of the process, but it usually takes approximately three months from the Applicant’s formal notification and publicity of an accepted application.
The Planning Inspectorate has up to 6 months to carry out the examination. During this stage Interested Parties who have registered by making a Relevant Representation are invited to provide more details of their views in writing. The Examining Authority reviews all the important and relevant matters including the representations of all Interested Parties, any supporting evidence submitted and answers provided to the Examining Authority’s questions set out in writing or posed at hearings.
5. Recommendation and Decision:
The Planning Inspectorate submits a report on the application to the relevant Secretary of State, including a recommendation, within 3 months of the close of the 6-month Examination stage. The SoS then has a further 3 months to make the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.
6. Post Decision:
Once a decision has been issued by the SoS, there is a 6-week period in which the decision may be challenged in the High Court. This process is known as Judicial Review.
For more information, see: www.infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/application-process/the-process