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13/1202/MFUL | Proposed solar farm, comprising the erection of solar arrays, equipment housing, fencing and ancillary equipment. | Land To West & North West Pithayes Farm Whimple
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Consultation Date: Tue 11 Jun 2013

Clerk To Whimple Parish Council

Consultation Date: Tue 11 Jun 2013

EDDC Trees

Consultation Date: Tue 11 Jun 2013

Devon County Archaeologist

Comment Date: Thu 19 Dec 2013

Dear Sir/Madam,

Application No. 13/1202/MFUL

Land To West & North West Pithayes Farm Whimple - Proposed solar farm, comprising the erection of solar arrays, equipment housing, fencing and ancillary equipment: Archaeology

My ref: Arch/DM/ED/20401c

I refer to the above application. I have now received the results of the geophysical survey, Substrata Report 131219 dated 19th December 2013. The survey has not identified any anomalies that may be interpreted as significant and, as such, I would like to withdraw the Historic Environment Teams objection to this planning application

The Historic Environment Team would therefore advise, in consideration of the results of the geophysical survey and the below-ground impact of the proposed development, that the proposed development will have no archaeological impact. No further archaeological mitigation is required and the Historic Environment Team have no further comments to make on this application.

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Reed
Archaeologist

Comment Date: Wed 03 Jul 2013

I refer to the above application. The proposed development site lies in an area of archaeological potential. To the west lies a possible prehistoric enclosure and the site of two possible Bronze Age funerary monuments - both archaeological sites identified through aerial photography. There have also been findspots of medieval and Roman artefacts from this area. Indeed, the site walkover of the site undertaken for the Heritage Environment Assessment (AC Archaeology report ref: ACD671/1, dated May 2013) noted the presence of Romano-British pottery as well as heat affected flint in the topsoil of the fields within the application area - both which may indicate the presence of settlement in this area from the Roman and prehistoric periods.

Given the potential for the site to contain archaeological deposits associated with the known prehistoric activity in the vicinity, and that the site visit recovered Romano-British and prehistoric artefacts from within the proposed solar farm, I disagree with the conclusion that the potential for finding heritage assets within the application area is low. I would regard the information submitted in support of this application as containing insufficient information on the heritage assets of the site to enable the significance of any heritage assets present to be understood or the impact of the proposed development upon it.

Given the potential for survival and significance of below ground archaeological deposits associated with the known prehistoric and Romano-British activity in the vicinity and the absence of sufficient archaeological information, the Historic Environment Service objects to this application. If further information on the impact of the development upon the archaeological resource is not submitted in support of this application then I would recommend the refusal of the application. This would be in accordance with East Devon Local Plan Policy EN8, Devon Structure Plan Policy CO8 and paragraph 128 of the National Planning Policy Framework (2012).

The additional information required to be provided by the applicant would be the results of:

1. a geophysical survey of the areas affected by the proposed development and, if required,
2. a programme of intrusive archaeological investigations to allow the significance of any archaeological deposits identified by the geophysical survey

The results of the above programmes of work would allow an informed and reasonable planning decision to be made.

I would recommend that the applicant or their agent contact this office to discuss the scope of works required and I would be able to provide a Brief setting out the scope of the works required.

Comment Date: Thu 25 Jul 2013

Comments

Primarily the scale of the proposed site, its sporadic form and layout cause significant concern given the sites proximity to Whimple and Cranbrook (Expansion areas).

Policy considerations

Policy S6 (Development in Green Wedges) - The site is entirely within an area of Green Wedge. This Policy is being carried forward within the emerging new Local Plan - Strategy 8. I am particularly concerned with how the proposed development could "damage the individual identity of a settlement or could lead to or encourage settlement coalescence.

Policy S5 (Countryside Protection) see Strategy 7 - Development in the Countryside of new Draft Local Plan.

Strategy 10 below - concern for impacting on use of the area by existing and new residents.

Strategy 10 - Green Infrastructure in East Devon's West End:

Clyst Valley Regional Park
Land to accommodate the Clyst Valley Regional Park is allocated on the Proposals Map. Developer contributions, the Community Infrastructure Levy and other agricultural-environmental funding streams will be used in combination to deliver this 'landscape' scale strategic project. Multi-agency, Landowner, developer and multi-agency collaboration support will be essential to achieve the broad range of outcomes intended for this area to ensure the planned growth is delivered sustainably over the plan period. The Clyst Valley Regional Park will:

a) Provide high quality natural green space that is complementary to development and will be a stimulus to encourage commercial and business development of the highest standard.

b) Ensure natural ecosystems function in the West End of our District and ensure residents, workers, school children and visitors of all abilities have easy access to high quality open spaces, with linked benefits to health, education and food production.

c) Take recreation pressure away from more environmentally sensitive locations thereby overcoming concerns arising from application of the Habitat Regulations that would otherwise prevent development coming forward. Provision of the park could help address need and requirements arising from development in other parts of East Devon, Exeter and potentially Teignbridge. We will encourage a park that 'reaches into' the open spaces of our neighbouring authority partners.

d) Provide new wildlife corridors that enhance the biodiversity of the West End.

e) Provide green corridors, open space and biodiversity enhancement areas. Enhance cycling and walking opportunities to link habitats and sustainable movement networks that promote the overall recreational experience for the West End.

f) Conserve and enhance heritage assets to reflect their intrinsic importance, maximise beneficial outcomes for park users and to encourage use of the park and to enrich the cultural identity of the area.

The park will be designed and managed to highest natural green design standards and it will be subject to parkland, open and recreation space and countryside and green infrastructure protection policies. Development will not be allowed in the designated area unless it will clearly achieve valley park specific objectives for people and wildlife. Countryside policies of the plan will still apply in non-allocated development locations and areas.

Habitat Regulations and West End Development

Where the likelihood of significant effects on European wildlife sites cannot be ruled out from developments in the West End, the Council will undertake an appropriate assessment of impacts and will only support and approve proposals where it can be demonstrated that adverse effects on site integrity can be prevented.

Of particular relevance to the Habitat Regulations will be the need for continued checks and monitoring to ensure that any mitigation measures for built developed, linked to Clyst Valley Regional Park provision, achieve the ends envisage and are offering effective mitigation against adverse impacts that could otherwise occur. Each phase of development occurring and park provision should be assessed and monitored.
Note: the above strategy is draft. The Local Plan is due for submission within the next few weeks.

While the proposed site is not within the Clyst Valley Regional Park (CVRP) the intention of this new area of investment is to conserve and enhance countryside for the benefits of the rapidly growing population. The quiet lanes and green lanes are clearly identified on the Area Framework Plan within the Green Infrastructure Strategy and these link to and from the CVRP and between the Cranbrook and Whimple.

Background

East Devon District Councils Landscape Character Assessment & Management Guidelines 2008
Landscape Character Type 4D: Lowland Plains

Key Characteristics
o Long views over low hedges
o Surprising feeling of remoteness in some parts, despite general level of development

Important to protect the character and preserve (enhance where possible) the 'feeling of remoteness' given the already 'planned' developments in the area,

Views through field gates are considered to be of particular interest given the local characteristics of Devonbanks which help form the strong and intact field pattern of the area.

Settlement and development: conserve by
1. Where development is permitted, including woodland and copses in development
proposals, to increase screening and ecological links
2. Encouraging a characteristic low, small-scale pattern in new development, including industrial uses
3. Where development is permitted, using red brick for boundary walls in and around
settlements
4. Encouraging housing development which reflects and respects local Victorian scale, detailing and materials.

Informal recreation: renew character by
1. Encouraging the provision of recreational opportunities and a good rights of way
linkage in all development and restoration

Part of Cranbrook GI Strategy to deliver links and countryside access to mitigate increase in population in the area and mitigate against pressures on more sensitive sites.

These points are supported in the Devon County Council Landscape Character Areas Assessment.





Theoretical Zone of Visual Influence




The image above shows the theoretical zones of visual influence from two locations within the proposed site. The Landscape assessment submitted has considered the true extent of visual impacts but the image provides a useful baseline with regard to the local topography.
In summary most of the fields are visible from a number of locations (viewpoints) and although not at the same time the magnitude of the impacts caused by such a development proposal are considered to be significant. This has been described within the Landscape Visual Impact assessment but in my opinion does not give enough weight to the importance of the existing and soon new residents (and visitors) to the area.
Fields 1, 4 and 5 are considered to be most sensitive on higher sloping ground and significantly more visible. The sporadic approach in this location sumply spreads the impacts over a wider area in my opinion. A more condensed site would reduce these wider impacts, however, my objection in principle remains given the importance for access, the Green Wedge and the scale of already planned developments.
The proposed site assessment does not take a comprehensive account of the 'planned' change that will happen within this area. Cranbrook has commenced and is set to expand. The Green Wedge provides the necessary space between this new settlement and the existing village of Whimple. The space will not simply be preserved but will perform a number of important functions for the benefit of both existing and new residents (and visitors).

The plan above shows the extent of major development within this part of East Devon, including the Green Wedge in the far east.


The plan on the previous page is taken from the Green Infrastructure Strategy 2009 Area Framework Plan indicates the proposed Greenways and Key cycle footpath on quiet roads. This highlights the importance of the area in helping provide valuable countryside connections for Cranbrook and existing villages.



The small section of this Area Framework plan above focuses on an area of land included within the current application and shows where indicative access routes are to be promoted. Any development within this area would undermine the attractiveness of the area and lessen the desire to walk or cycle through this area - resulting in people either not using this route at all or possibly driving in their cars.

The principles established within the GI Strategy are now beginning to turn into reality and the Local Planning Authority is taking great care in assessing the impacts of any new developments within the area given the significant scale of growth. The Clyst Valley Regional Park has been defined within the new Local Plan and it is important that the area defined and in close proximity should be protected to provide good access to the countryside for the existing and new residents in the area.

Whilst 'sustainable development' is a shared aim there has to be a balancing of the capacity of any area to perform effectively. In this case it is clear that the enjoyment of the landscape and safe access must take the priority.

Some of the GI projects considered appropriate for the area include: i) the creation and management of the Green Lanes as indicated on the GI Strategy plans; ii) the creation of community Orchards and iii) potential for small woodland / copse areas and tree planting within hedgerows and it should be noted that these are to be progressed without the presence of any further development within the Green Wedge area, in order to enhance the areas character and help divert some of the growing population away from more sensitive sites within the District (Exe Estuary and Pebblebed Heaths).

Devon County Highway Authority

Comment Date: Tue 23 Jul 2013

Observations:

The proposed development site has a suitable existing access off Church Road for traffic in the construction phase of the development. This access is initially hard surface finished at the point where it joins the highway, but this is not be true for all the internal tracked accesses to the various parts of the development site.

The internal tracks will be of unmade or of loose surface finish unless where the ground conditions or weather conditions dictate that temporary surfacing or loose bound aggregate is installed (but the applicant does not does not consider this measure to be necessary in all probability). Therefore the provision of wheel washing facilities is required at the main access/egress point to prevent mud, loose stone and gravel being tracked onto the highway and possibly to the nearby junction of Church Road with the B3174 (Roman Road).

The application is not accompanied with a Construction Environment Management Plan (CEMP) which should include provisions for transport to and from the site, delivery forecasts, construction programme forecast, proposed travel movements and any mitigation proposals.

There is no mention within the application documents of any internal compound/s for construction vehicles, storage of equipment, delivery unloading, and vehicle turning area/s or where operative vehicle parking is proposed.

The application, as it stands, is lacking in sufficient detail for me to successfully gauge the full impact of the proposal on the highway network. Therefore I must regretfully recommend refusal on lack of suitable information grounds.

22/07/2013

The applicant has now provided a Construction Traffic Management Plan which contains sufficient details for wheel washing facilities, external route to site (avoiding centres of population), internal routing within the site and areas for site compounds, vehicle parking and turning manoeuvring. Therefore the County Highway Authority can remove its recommendation for refusal of this application.




Recommendation:

THE HEAD OF PLANNING, TRANSPORTATION AND ENVIRONMENT, ON BEHALF OF DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL, AS LOCAL HIGHWAY AUTHORITY, RECOMMENDS THAT THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS SHALL BE INCORPORATED IN ANY GRANT OF PERMISSION:-

1. No other part of the development hereby approved shall be commenced until the access, parking facilities, commercial vehicle loading/unloading area, turning area and access routes and wheel washing facilities have been provided and maintained in accordance with details that shall have been submitted to, and approved in writing by, the Local Planning Authority and retained for that purpose at all times

REASON: To ensure that adequate facilities are available for the traffic attracted to the site




Officer authorised to Date: 22 July 2013
sign on behalf of the County Council

Parish/Town Council

Comment Date: Thu 18 Jul 2013

Addendum re Whimple Parish Council response to application 13/1202/MFUL

Following our initial response of Tuesday 2nd July 2013 to the proposed solar farm at Pithayes Farm, Whimple - planning application 13/1202/MFUL - we forward this addendum relating to important issues not covered in the earlier communication.

1. The Parish Council meeting of Monday 1st July, discussing the planning application 13/1202/MFUL relating to the proposed solar farm at Pithayes Farm, Whimple, was attended by over 114 members of the public.

2. Apart from the applicant, there was unanimous opposition from those present at the meeting, as no-one else spoke in favour of the application when the question was asked.

3. The members of Whimple Parish Council were unanimous in their objection to the application.

In order to reflect:
1. The unprecedented attendance over the past 8 years.
2. The unanimity of comments of opposition to the proposed Solar Farm.
3. The strength of feeling expressed by many at the meeting.
4. The breadth of justified issues of concern regarding the proposal.
5. The similar strength and breadth of opposition expressed on the EDDC website by Whimple residents,
we feel it incumbent upon Whimple Parish Council to express our unqualified objection to the proposal.

Alternative sites - Whimple Parish Council would prefer to see brownfield sites used for solar parks rather than agricultural land. e.g. Redundant space at the edge of airports has been used for other solar parks - there is space available at Exeter airport. Another alternative would be to use the land which has now been turned into a brownfield site at the Exeter Gateway as Sainsbury's no longer requires the site.

Should EDDC be minded to disregard the unanimous (apart from the applicant) opposition to this proposal and approve the above application, we feel this would seriously undermine local confidence in the structures and processes of public representation and consultation with regard to such matters. However, should the application proceed, Whimple Parish Council insists the following is enforced:

Access to the site.
o Construction vehicles should access the site via the entrance south of Pithayes Farm only.
o No permission to be granted to use any other access on Church Road or Cobden Lane.
o Construction vehicles should be discouraged from arriving together and forming a queue on the junction of Church Road and the old A30 at Hand and Pen.
o Vehicles should only approach the site via Daisy Mount and the old A30.
o Construction vehicles are not to enter the village centre.
o Vehicles should arrive after 9 a.m and leave before 5 p.m.
o Mud on the Highway to be removed at the end of each day.

The Site.
o The grass beneath the panels should be restored and be of a quality to support livestock.
o Weeds should not be allowed to flourish within the fenced boundary.
o The use of large mature trees and shrubs where areas of mitigation planting is described.
o The land to be returned to Grade 3 agricultural pastures after use.

Comment Date: Wed 03 Jul 2013

Whimple Parish Council has several concerns:
1) Two thirds of ED is in an AONB and is, therefore, protected. Whimple stands in the 1/3 which is not protected and is adjacent to the large amount of development in the Growth Point. This application is putting additional pressure on an unprotected area.
2) The residents of Whimple value living in a rural community, with working farms providing local food.
These thriving agricultural businesses a) look after the environment b) employ people c) have to contend with the responsibility put upon them by Europe making farming not substantially viable.
The farming industry is important and should be retained.
3) Energy is important. The UK is behind the curve in producing energy and is reliant on nuclear power.
Generation of electricity from solar panels on farmland, when Whimple already has a solar park on the edge of the parish as well as in adjoining parishes, is adding pressure to the land. The country needs a carbon sensitive way of producing energy. There is a case for arguing that the next tranche of building in Cranbrook requires panels to be fitted to roofs.
4) The size and amount of land proposed to be used in this application is too great - it is considerably larger than the one already in the parish and has a footprint of 4 times the size of the village. This would not provide a good green wedge between Whimple and Cranbrook.
5) The accuracy of the application - it states that the panels are North and North West of the farm but most of the panels are tot he South and South West.
6) Although a public consultation was held it was not sufficiently publicized by the company.
7) If EDDC is minded to approve this application Whimple Parish Council requests that a) it is considerably smaller and well away from any residences. In order to obtain planning permission for an agricultural building it must be 400m away from a residence. Whimple suggests 1/8 of what is currently proposed. b) EDDC ensures the panels used are non reflective. c) Once the panels are no longer in use the ground must be returned to agricultural purposes.

National Trust

Comment Date: Fri 12 Jul 2013

I write on behalf of the of the National Trust in relation to the above mentioned planning application. The Trust owns the Kilerton Estate, which comprises 2585 nhectares, 21 farms and includes the grade II registered park and garden. The estate includes much of the land around Broadclyst.

The Trust has a statutory duty under the National Trust Acts to promote the conservation of places of historic interest and natural beauty. he trust is committed to the transition to more sustainable forms of energy generation, as both a producer and consumer in the energy system. However, whilst it supports a major increase in renewable energy it also believes that the location and design of all energy generation schemes should take account of the full range of environment considerations, including the protection of valued landscapes, and that developments must be in acceptable locations and of an appropriate scale and design for their setting to avoid unacceptable harm.

The national Planning Policy Framework (NPPF;2012) requires applicants to supply sufficient information to understand the potential impact of a proposal on the significance of any heritage assets affected, and any contribution made by their setting (NFPP;Para 128). An assessment of impact should follow a systematic approach in line with The Setting of Heritage Assets - English Heritage Guidance (2011;Para4.2) undertaking:
o Assessing whether, how and to what degree settings make a contribution to the significance of the heritage asset(s) (STEP 2).
o Assessing the effect of the proposed development on the significance of the asset(s) (STEP 3), which should take into account any change to the general character of the landscape context, among other attributes.
o Maximising enhancement and minimising harm (STET 4); Consideration should be given to options for avoiding or reducing any harm, and providing enhancement, to ensure an acceptable balance between harm and benefit.

The Trust commissioned a Setting Study for Killerton Park by Land Use Consultants (Final Report April 2013 - copy on CD enclosed for your information). This study has mapped a zone of influence to the registered park and garden in the wider landscape and assessed the contribution of the setting to the significance of the asset (Killerton Park), defining component character areas and assessing their comparative sensitivity to change.
The proposal site lies adjacent to Character Type 6: Lowland Plains (Devon LCT Ref:4D). The Killerton Setting Study locates the site adjacent to the sub-area of that type, 6c which forms the middle-distant setting to the southern part of Killerton Park. The Trust recognises that the area is currently subject to the greatest degree of change of all the areas covered by this study, with the building of Cranbrook New Town, Skypark industrial area and associated infrastructure and the future development of Exeter Airport all being major forces for change. Consequently it is accepted that the impact on both the views from Killerton and the landscape character of its setting may potentially not be that significant, but a more complete assessment is still required to consider the impact on the general character of the landscape context of the asset, including the cumulative impact with the permitted solar park as Saundercroft and the pending consideration application at Crannaford, plus the two existing solar farms in the Whimple area. In its Cumulative Impact Summary the application documents seem to imply the build of yet another solar farm will have "no combined simultaneous effects, no successive effects and no significance" from most if not all of the identified viewpoints. Furthermore, it states that the solar farm will be visible from Ashclyst Forest.

The Exeter and East Devon New Growth Point Green Infrastructure Strategy (Phase II; Dec 2009) should also be considered, given that is forms part of a framework which protects and enhances environmental assets. As part of that strategy, the footpath that runs from Newlands to Lower Burrowton forms part of an investment programme for a new 'Greenway' linking the proposed new settlement at Cranbrook to Ashclyst Forest (Exeter Green Infrastructure Strategy Phase II; Pages 15 and 22)
The new Greenway will "enhance access to the Nation Trust estate and encourage the new community to make full use of the enhanced leisure and recreational facilities at the Forest"(Page 22). The route shown on Figure 3: the Green Infrastructure Investment Plan and Figure 4: The Monkerton-Cranbrook Area Framework Plan, as making important contribution to the 'sustainable movement network'

The Trust would like to see the application submission give consideration to whether there are any additional likely effects on this proposed Greenway that those highlighted in relation to the existing footpath, and to evaluate the sensitivity in relation to the anticipated future use.
The Trust fully recognises the public benefits of the proposed scheme and would like to support it in principle, subject to appropriate mitigation. With this in mind we would request that you assess the landscape impact of this proposal on Killerton Park in line with steps 3-5 the Settings of Heritage Assets - English Heritage guidance as set out above.
Regard should also be had to draft best practice guidance on minimising harm to the distinctive character and special qualities of Devon's landscape in Accommodating Wind and Solar PV Developments in Devon's Landscape (land Use Consultants Draft - Jan 2013).

Campaign To Protect Rural England

Comment Date: Wed 10 Jul 2013

CPRE objects to the proposal.

Please see full scanned letter dated 07/07/13 under associated documents.

Comment Date: Tue 18 Jun 2013

CPRE is aware of this application and will wish to comment on it in detail later.

The information provided in the application is incomplete, as there is no information on the power to be generated by the scheme, nor any information on the amount carbon saving.
As the primary, indeed only, function of a solar farm is to provide power and to save carbon, this is essential information.

The application states that there will be no agricultural use of the land. CPRE consider that therefore this should be considered as a change of use to industrial use, and liable to industrial rates.

Erection of Solar PV installations on agricultural land is clearly development, as it requires engineering operations over and under land, for the piling and support structures for the solar panels. These structures are substantial, are not moveable, are firmly attached to the ground by piling, and are built on site. They have a significant degree of permanence, and can only be removed by taking them to pieces. Thus, these Solar PV installations cannot be termed temporary. It is therefore seriously questionable whether the land could in any way continue to be regarded as agricultural. Its primary use is industrial. The Solar arrays are not merely temporary. Their removal in order to revert to proper full agricultural use would require inter alia removal of the 4-6 feet deep piles. It should be deemed permanent change of use, and thus the land should be subject to industrial rates.


I would be grateful for your reponse to these points.



Margaret Hall
Secretary, East Devon CPRE

Whimpl - Cllr M Evans-Martin

Comment Date: Mon 08 Jul 2013

I Write to object to this planning application because of 1. Visiting the proposed site and 2.as a result of attending a Planning meeting of the Whimple Parish Council on Monday the 1st of July 2013 when an hour long meeting with a substantial number of the inhabits of Whimple discussed this application in considerable detail and unanimously rejected it.

This application for a very large site of 64 acres of solar farm, unlike the other two that have been approved and built in the immediate area of Whimple, is not planned for an isolated site with little to no impact upon the community. Effectively, the area of the proposed application is in the communities of Hand and Pen and Whimple. On the South side of the proposed site it abuts the old A30 and overlaps two of Hand Pen's dwellings. In addition it is located close to the centre of hand and Pen and will be very visible to the inhabitants of that community as well as passing moterists. The North end of the proposed site is located very close to the centre of the village of Whimple and will overwhelm the property of New C rockernhayes as well as overlooking Higher Cobden and Little Cobden as the proposed solar panels will located on the hillside above these properties.

Overall then I feel that this proposed solar farm site will be very visible o the inhabitants of my ward, intrusive in the extreme. There are I feel enough solar farms inside my ward and this particular application is more than enough.


Cllr Martin Gammell

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