I have now had time to read up on the planning application for the proposed solar Farm in Bank Road and as such wanted to proffer my thoughts on behalf of the residents.
Whilst I do believe we need to embrace renewable developments, each one needs to be looked at carefully, and on its own merits. Any site that is to be seriously considered, and indeed permitted to go ahead needs, as with other local development, to blend in with the existing environment and indeed enhance it.
37,6 Hectares of Solar Panels in rows mounted at a height of 2.4 m and at a 25 degree angle, bordered by fencing 2- 2.4 m high will produce 18MW of electricity.
Major areas that I feel need to be addressed centre mainly on the scale of the proposal, it close proximity to the villages, and its visibility, that will undoubtedly negatively affect the beauty of the area.
The concerns that I see for the villages of Mersham and Aldington are as follows:
1. Great care would need to be taken to mask this from view, and I fear this would not be possible. A public byway and footpaths traverse the land, and as such the development would be clearly visible to those using these paths. Further, it would be visible from Clap Hill , Laws Lane and Bank Rd.
2. As such the impact on changes to the geographical landscape would be immense
3. Saxon Shore and the surrounding areas are well known for their walks and rambles- the region taking its name from the 160 mile saxon shore way, named after the line of historic fortifications that defended the Kent coast at the end of the Roman era. Such a development would severely and detrimentally affect the attraction of the area, costing the local economy dearly. A number of Pubs, restaurants and B &B´s rely heavily on the income from rambler and cycle enthusiasts.
4. Whilst each landowner has the right to chose which use best suits his land, It needs to be considered whether it would be wise to lose 37 almost 38 acres of good agricultural land for a period of 25 years – particularly bearing in mind the physical changes this would make to the landscape and biodiversity over the same period.
5. Clear evidence would need to be produced at the planning application phase, in order to adequately demonstrate a sensible and suitable surface water drainage system, which not only complies with minimum requirements, but also adequately provides for the region specific issues in this area. The area is known for surface water challenges and could not entertain something which simply scraped through on minimum planning requirements, but which provided a wholly inadequate solution to the infrastructure at large.
6. Fencing that appears very austere and prison like could perhaps be considered inappropriate for such an area of beauty and particularly as it adjoins an ANOB in the high Weald.
7. Although very subjective, It would undoubtedly be a key argument that the peace and tranquillity of such an area would be disrupted and changed almost irreversibly – 25 years is an incredibly long time, and even wildlife and the biodiversity would then adapt itself to accommodate such an installation, thus altering a large area of our countryside
On the right scale and in the right place where such a development can be shielded from sight, despite my concerns over the cost of production of such forms of electricity, such a development could be reasonable to consider. Since the initial application in July 13, the developers have been working hard to adapt this to be more acceptable to the village, and I do champion their efforts. In its current form however, I have grave concerns about its negative impact and would therefore be more than happy to support the villagers in the fight to oppose.
Enclosed is the planning practice guide for renewable energy in the below link