Retrospective plans for solar array at Heatherdene House, Buxted, approved

Retrospective plans for ground-based photovoltaic solar arrays at Heatherdene House, Buxted Wood Lane, Buxted, have been approved by Wealden councillors.buxted_sign_un

Cllr Michael Lunn, local ward member and member of the district council’s planning committee, north, had asked for the application to be considered by the committee because he was “quite shocked at the size and visual impact” of the application.

Chairman of Buxted Parish Council Vivian Blandford told the committee Buxted councillors did not believe the array could be assimilated well into the landscape and they thought it was over-large for domestic purposes.

But planning officer Stacey Robbins said the array was much smaller in scale than other applications for arrays that had already been approved by the council.

Mr Robbins said three came to mind which were in more sensitive areas and the smallest of those was for 34,000 panels as compared with the 200 at Heatherdene House, Buxted. He argued that for consistency’s sake the Buxted plan should be approved.

Mark Johnson who, with his wife, owns the Heatherdene site said work was due to begin on building a new house there within the next couple of months.

Their plan was for it to be environmentally-friendly and sustainable. It would be passive with the solar array heating water and providing power for heating and ventilation systems, refrigeration and other electrical devices.

When generation was at its highest it would also contribute to the power network.

Mr Johnson said his family saw themselves as reasonable and considerate neighbours who were absolutely committed to putting into place recommendations to mitigate the impact of the array and to plant more trees too.

He added that he believed the impacts of the array would be “really small” in relation to the benefits it would bring to the community and themselves.

An officer’s report to the committee said the 50kw array had been laid out in four rows, each 25m long and spanning an area 28m deep.

The array was supported on a metal frame and the panels were set at an angle with the height ranging between 0.8m and 2.452m.

Residents in Redbrook Lane and Spotted Cow Lane objected to the array but the report to councillors said that as their homes were between 250m and 360m away from the site the impact was on views, rather than the immediate outlook from the dwellings which was to gardens and adjacent land.

“As such, it is not considered that the array could be regarded as having a material adverse impact on the residential amenities of these dwellings such as would warrant a recommendation for refusal of planning permission.”

A landscape and visual impact assessment  said the landscape impact of the array could be regarded as “minimal (‘slight negative’) on the basis of its size, limited life span and the ability for small animals to graze beneath it allowing use of the land.

It suggested that the nearby replacement dwelling, once built, would reduce the visual impact from certain aspects as it would be of a contemporary and angular design and would juxtapose with the array.

The assessment suggested the remaining visual impact could be mitigated by additional planting and by applying a black or dark green paint to aluminium panel edges and gaps between the panels to remove sun glint.

Councillors were told solar arrays did bring with them visual change and an impact on the character of the area but this was a temporary consent with reversible effects.

The report said: “The balance of considerations here is tipped in favour of approval with the benefits of renewable energy provision, energy security and reduction in carbon emissions outweighing the local visual impact.”

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