Wiltshire solar farm granted retrospective planning permission

Out-Law News | 12 Jan 2018 | 5:36 pm | 2 min. read

Wiltshire Council has granted retrospective planning permission to a 22 hectare solar farm which, once complete, will "make a significant and highly valued contribution towards Wiltshire's renewable energy targets".

The Norrington solar farm at Broughton Gifford, Wiltshire was originally granted planning permission in June 2013, and construction was completed and the project sold to a new owner shortly afterwards. The scheme then suffered uncertainty after a local resident, Daniel Gerber, began a lengthy court challenge despite missing the deadline for doing so by 11 months.

In a report for the council's planning committee (17-page / 188KB PDF), case officer James Taylor noted that the scheme had been "virtually completed". Its current owners, Norrington Solar Farm Ltd, had taken steps to address objections raised by the planning committee following a variation planning application in 2014, including the removal of CCTV at the site and replacing the original metal fencing, he said.

"The modifications proposed would enable the solar farm to continue to contribute to ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions and accord with the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development," Taylor said. "The [National Planning Policy Framework] supports the increase in the supply of renewable energy generation, and advises that local planning authorities should approve such applications if their impacts are or can be made acceptable."

"It is assessed that the alterations would not result in any significant material harm in planning terms above and beyond the extant approval when considered singularly or cumulatively with more recent large-scale solar PV schemes in the vicinity; and as such, it is recommended favourably … Given the established planning history, and the applicant's addressing of the reasons for refusal of the previous application, it is not considered that there are any sound reasons for refusal of this application," he said.

The planning permission (3-page 106KB PDF) is now subject to a six-week limitation period, during which third parties have the right to challenge the decision if they have grounds to believe that it was made improperly.

Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, acted for Norrington Solar Farm Ltd during the planning application process, and the earlier judicial review proceedings.

Wiltshire Council originally granted planning permission for a solar farm at Broughton Gifford on 25 June 2013, after receiving no objections in response to notices of the planning application which had been posted locally by the council, and in the local newspaper and online. The original developer had also held two public exhibitions locally regarding his plans.

Gerber, who owns the Grade II-listed Gifford Hall located near, but not adjacent to, the solar farm site, claimed that he only noticed that the site was being developed on 19 March 2014. He emailed the council the following day objecting to the development. When the council rejected his complaint, and after seeking legal advice, he began a claim for judicial review which he was given permission to pursue on 20 October 2014.

Although Gerber's claim was upheld by the High Court, it was later overturned by the Court of Appeal. Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused in July 2016, on the grounds that the appeal did not "raise an arguable point of law of general public importance"