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Hearing called over refusal of plans for new solar farm near Shropshire Hills AONB

The company behind rejected plans for a new solar farm in the south Shropshire countryside will go before a planning inspector next week in a bid to have the refusal overturned.

Solar panels
Solar panels

A hearing will take place at Shirehall on Tuesday over an appeal against Shropshire Council’s decision not to grant permission for the 12-megawatt facility, earmarked for a site off Squirrel Lane in Ledwyche, near Ludlow.

If the inspector sides with the applicants and grants permission, the solar farm would be constructed on around 28.5 hectares of farmland, along with fencing, a CCTV system, and an internal access track. It would be in place for 40 years.

Council planning officers had recommended approval of the scheme, but the southern planning committee was not convinced, and instead refused permission by eight votes to three at a meeting in September.

Councillor Andy Boddington, who proposed the refusal, and Councillor Claire Wild, who seconded, will represent the committee at the hearing to defend their reasoning to the inspector.

The plans were put forward by Ledwyche Solar Ltd, a subsidiary of Edinburgh-based renewable energy firm Logogen, and representatives of the company will also attend the hearing to argue their case.

In a report to the committee ahead of the meeting in September, case officer Grahame French had acknowledged that 95 per cent of the site was good quality agricultural land and had been graded ‘3a’, the lowest classification of ‘best and most versatile’ land, which planning policies say should be protected from development.

However Mr French said there were “drainage limitations” restricting what the land could be used for, and added that it would be used for sheep grazing during the life of the solar farm and restored to agricultural use afterwards.

He concluded: “Given also the strong justifications for the choice of location it is considered that the benefits of renewable energy in this instance significantly and demonstrably outweigh any residual impact arising from the temporary loss of best and most versatile land.”

However councillors did not agree with this assessment, and said they could not justify taking good quality land out of agricultural use.

They also argued there would be a detrimental impact on the setting of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with the proposed solar farm lying just 1.4km from its boundary, and public rights of way.

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