Inspector allows solar farm plan

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Ashurst can have a second solar farm, after a decision by a Government planning inspector.

The plans for a 10MW solar array to the north of Sopers Copse, Honeybridge Lane, was refused planning permission by Horsham District Council last year.

Lumicity Ltd appealed against the decision, and the appeal has been upheld by planning inspector David Rose.

In his report, Mr Rose said: “The renewable energy capacity of the project would be sufficient to power approximately 2,400 homes.

“The land within the site is entirely sub-grade 3b and it does not constitute ‘best and most versatile agricultural land’.”

He added: “Mature hedgerows provide internal subdivision and good boundary enclosure other than along the western boundary of the site which is predominantly open.

“Subject to landscape mitigation works, to include the planting of an ‘instant’ hedgerow along this boundary, the effect of the solar farm on landscape character would be very limited and it would progressively diminish over time as the new landscaping achieves its intended density within a period of five years or so.”

The site is close to Priors Byne Farm, off Bines Road, which was also refused planning permission for a solar array but had the decision overturned on appeal.

Local resident Mark Knight told the County Times that this latest appeal ruling was: “A staggering decision which flies in the face of common sense.

“When Nick Herbert MP visted the site he shared my horror at the prospect of two solar farms in Ashurst. Now his fears have materialised.

“To say that the provision of renewable energy on two adjacent rural sites, over 113 acres in total, outweighs the impact on the countryside makes no sense at all.

“This means that the majority of the Sussex countryside is at risk from such developments and the greed of farmers and landowners chasing easy money.

“The Horsham area is being destroyed by housing developers who refuse to install solar panels and as a result more rural land is being used to hit government renewable targets.”

After his site visit earlier this year, Mr Herbert said he was in favour of solar panels in the right places, but added: “We should not allow the careless industrialisation of the West Sussex countryside with acres of ugly solar farms.”

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