Agenda item

Agricultural Land to the South of Low Moor Lane, Hessay, York [23/00626/FULM] (3.02pm)

Installation of a solar farm and associated infrastructure, including control station, DNO substation, access tracks, inverters and other auxiliary infrastructure [Rural West Ward]


Members considered a major full application from Neil Foxall for the installation of a solar farm and associated infrastructure, including control station, DNO substation, access tracks, inverters and other auxiliary infrastructure on agricultural land to the south of Low Moor Lane, Hessay, York.


The Head of Planning and Development Services gave a presentation on the application. She was asked and demonstrated where the buildings were on the plan and in the photos. The Development Management Officer gave an update on additional information for the application noting there had been two additional representations in objection to the application and that there were amendments to conditions 13 and 16.


Public Speakers


Peter Rollings (Chairman of Rufforth with Knapton Parish Council) spoke in objection to the application, He explained that the solar installation was deemed inappropriate development in Green Belt. He noted that the solar farm would link Rufforth and Hessay with a mass of industrial equipment and would affect the view. He added that the site was not identified for a solar farm on the local area energy plan. He added that there were no very special circumstances and there was a more suitable site in the parish at Harewood Whin. He asked the committee to approach the site in a strategic manner and urged refusal of the application or deferral so that this site and Harewood Whin could be considered at the same time. He also noted concern about the impact of construction traffic.


In response to Member questions he explained that:

It was the Parish Council’s understanding that there was only sufficient grid capacity for one site. Officers were asked and explained that it was their understanding that there was only capacity for one solar farm and if there was two this would be determined by the National Grid who would seek additional capacity for one or each of them to upgrade capacity.


[At 3.12pm Cllr Melly sought legal advice from the Senior Solicitor. Following this advice she withdrew from the meeting at 3.13pm]


Richard Morgan, the Applicant, spoke in favour of the application. He introduced Solar 2, the company behind the application and thanked the planning department for their work on the application and balanced report. He explained that Hessay solar farm was a sensitively designed scheme that would deliver green energy to the local grid within two years. He added that it would delivery electricity to 13000 homes in York. He noted that there had been no objections apart from the Parish Council and the application complied with local and national planning policies. He noted the consultation that taken place and explained how the application linked to council policies.


Richard Morgan was asked a number of questions from Member to which he responded that:

The grid connection would be 40 megawatts and the yield would be different to that. Under planning they could build up to 49 megawatts.

Concerning native tree planting around the boundary, they were content through the condition process that that they could introduce different trees.

There was a full grid offer to link into Poppleton and it was explained why Hessay was chosen as the site for the solar farm.

Regarding clearing the site at the end of the 40 year period it not known at the present point how this would be undertaken. The Chair noted that there was a condition to ensure the site would be cleared and he added that finance was not a consideration. It was clarified that this was condition 20.

The carbon payback for the manufacture was two years. The Head of Planning and Development Services drew Members’ attention to condition 40.


In response to a question from a Member, the Head of Planning and Development Services noted that the Local Plan did not allocate sites for solar farms. She was asked and explained that there were no sequential sites for solar farms but there was for housing. The Senior Solicitor was asked and explained that the Committee had to look at the application before it and could not take into consideration other sites. When asked if there was a shortfall of sites, the Head of Planning and Development Services explained that solar farms were not treated the same as housing sites. The Chair drew Members attention to paragraph 5.45 of the published report.


The Head of Planning and Development Services read out policy CC1 and noted the six points that proposals would need to relate to. A Member noted that policy CC1 also included a reference to renewable energy. The Head of Planning and Development Services noted that section 11.4 of policy CC1 referred to a 2014 council renewable energy study. Members were advised that they needed to give weight to the Local Plan, evidence base of the Local Plan, and other considerations.


A Member noted that condition 14 detailed the decontamination of the site and he asked why there was no financial plan. The Head of Planning and Development Services noted that the condition needed to be reasonable and was a standard condition for reverting the site back to it’s original condition. She clarified that officers felt that the conditions were reasonable. Asked about Northern Powergrid deciding which site to connect to (Hessay or Harewood Whin) the Development Management Officer clarified that the Applicant had received confirmation from the grid provider and he noted that prior to the meeting he had not been aware of this. The Senior Solicitor advised that this was new information and it was unknown which site the provider would like with. She was asked and clarified that some weight could be given to this.


The Head of Planning and Development Services advised that in the Local Plan there were no sites allocated for renewable energy but the 2014 council renewable energy study identified potential sites. This study was included as evidence for the Local Plan and Members needed to consider the evidence base and the evidence base that had been taken out of the Local Plan. The Chair noted national policy as detailed in paragraph 5.45 of the published report.


At this point, Cllr Ayre proposed deferral of the application. This was seconded by Cllr Steward. The Senior Solicitor advised that Constitution required the officer recommendation to be tested before a further motion could be made.


Following debate, Cllr Merrett moved the officer recommendation to approve the application. The motion was seconded by Cllr Baxter. On being put to a vote, with six votes in favour, two against, and one abstention, it was:


Resolved:   That the application be approved.


Reason:     The proposal for the construction of a solar farm to produce 49.9 MW of electricity per annum over a 61-hectare site lying between Hessay and Rufforth is acknowledged to be inappropriate development within the Green Belt. However, subject to appropriate conditions the proposal is felt to be acceptable in terms of flood risk and drainage, aviation safety, biodiversity, residential amenity and transportation and access. It is felt that the clear environmental benefits when put in the context of the declared climate emergency of generation of a significant quantity of renewable energy outweighs the harm to the openness of the Green Belt and the localised harm to the adjoining landscape character. The proposal is therefore felt to be acceptable in planning terms and approval is recommended.


[Cllrs Wilson, Baxter, Fenton and Steels-Walshaw left the meeting at 4.13pm]


[The meeting adjourned from 4.13pm until 4.31pm]


[Cllrs Whitcroft, Nelson, Kelly and Waudby joined the meeting. At this point, Cllr Melly became the Substitute for Cllr Steels-Walshaw]

Supporting documents:


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