Members of Uckfield Town Council’s planning committee have objected to plans for a Solar Electric Forecourt and solar farm off the A22 by-pass.
They recorded comments outside the usual cycle of meetings, and said that while they supported the promotion of green energy and renewable options this was not the right place for a Solar Electric Forecourt.
Planning application WD/2020/1244/MAJ is for a Solar Electric Forecourt comprising 24 vehicle charging points, and a solar photovoltaic (PV) farm and energy storage.
The hub building would contain a mix of facilities including WCs, coffee shop, retail, seating area, meeting rooms/workspace, and a display area.
There would be car parking, hard and soft landscaping and access from the Copwood roundabout. A footpath would be diverted.
Wealden Council will make the final decision on the proposal.
Town councillors said the site was outside the Uckfield development boundary and the proposal set a “dangerous precedent” for the future outward creep of development.
They also considered it overdevelopment of the site and “detrimental” to the rural area.
They said the land was still being used for agricultural purposes, and an area where a footpath crosses the site, was improved three years ago with the fields sprayed to kill dock weeds. It was re-seeded to provide top grazing land and councillors said it should be kept this way.
Councillors said an access link to the Copwood roundabout was “totally unsuitable”. There were particular concerns about safety and congestion.
They said there was already congestion every evening at Copwood roundabout from vehicles leaving the Bellbrook business park.
“The increase of traffic from the new development at Ridgewood Place, and the new business units north of the Ridgewood Place site will increase the volume of traffic at this point further.
“There will be an increased number of HGV vehicles utilising this roundabout and Little Horsted roundabout due to access restrictions into the industrial parks.
“As a result the road network is likely to reach full standstill, both mornings, and evenings in this area.”
Councillors said the charging points would not benefit residents of Uckfield because the forecourt was so close to their homes. Only vehicles travelling along the A22 would use it.
They were also concerned about the provision of retail out of town which could impact existing retail and hospitality trade and risk moving custom away from the High Street, and Bellbrook business park.
The town council concluded: “The town council is fully aware that PV panels are being installed across the country on agricultural land and they still enable grazing/crops to continue through this diversification, but there is no reason why both PV panels and forecourt facilities have to be on the same site.
“There are already concerns regarding traffic congestion and new junctions being added to the A22 between Copwood and Little Horsted roundabouts as a result of new development in Uckfield.
“The proposal to build a forecourt, service hub, retail and catering facilities would be better sited near hubs already in existence along the A22 with overnight accommodation and employment space, such as the Ashdown Business Park at Maresfield which has a number of new businesses and a new Premier Inn.”
Read more about the GRIDSERVE proposals in an Uckfield News story carried when the company consulted on their proposals: Have your say on proposal for Uckfield electric vehicle recharging forecourt.