Ashurst solar farm rejection is overturned on appeal

Construction begins on a solar farm at Priors Byne
Construction begins on a solar farm at Priors Byne

Work has begun to install a solar farm near Ashurst after the council’s decision to reject plans was overturned by the planning inspector.

Hadstone Energy launched an appeal after their application was turned down by Horsham District Council’s development control committee in April of last year.

On Wednesday March 18, the planning inspectorate gave the green light for the solar farm at Priors Byne Farm, off Bines Road.

It is believed construction at the site, which will provide electricity for 1,700 homes a year, will take around three months.

A neighbour of the site has labelled the decision ‘a major setback’ for campaigners attempting to preserve the countryside.

Mark Knight said: “This arbitrary decision is a major setback for people who are trying to preserve the Sussex countryside as well as HDC and Ashurst Parish Council who highlighted the detrimental effect on the landscape when they rejected this plan.

“Our local MP Nick Herbert has highlighted the democratic shortcomings of the Planning Inspectorate in his bid to have it scrapped.

“Given this latest announcement it can’t come soon enough.”

Hadstone Energy have celebrated the decision to grant the company planning permission.

Project manager Emma Siddons said: “Hadstone Energy is pleased that the planning inspectorate has allowed Hadstone’s appeal against the decision of Horsham District Council’s development control committee.

“The inspector upheld the appeal, agreeing with Hadstone Energy’s analysis of the landscape and visual impacts of the development.”

Ms Siddons noted that HDC refused the initial application against the recommendation of council planning officers.

And she said the application process has delayed construction by almost a year and created ‘a significant cost’ for both the company and the council.

She added: “In his conclusion the inspector stated that “the scheme...is well-planned and well-screened and it allows for continued agricultural use and improved bio-diversity’.

“Horsham District Council’s planning officer had reached a similar conclusion when originally recommending to the development control committee that the scheme be approved.

“The appeal has delayed the build by nearly a year and has created significant cost for us and Horsham District Council, however we are delighted that we can now get on with the business of generating renewable energy at Priors Byne in a sympathetic and sustainable way.”

The company hosted a public exhibition in Partridge Green Village Hall in December 2013, and submitted their planning application the following month.

Some village residents had criticised the application as a blight on the landscape.

The solar panels are set to be 2.5m high on the site which covers 18 hectares.

Owner of the farm John Ford said that the development would secure the future of the farm, which has struggled recently with the sale of produce.