Lightsource overcomes solar planning difficulties

Higher Knapp Farm, near Taunton, has recently become one of the latest farms in Somerset to rent out a small percentage of its land to solar power generator, Lightsource Renewable Energy.

The land will now accommodate a solar farm generating 1.5 MW of green energy – the equivalent of enough power for around 442 households, which is more than half of the parish of North Curry. Lightsource says it has consulted closely with both North Curry Parish Council and Taunton Deane Council from the inception of the project.

The principal issue raised at the initial meeting with the Parish Council back in early November 2012 was that of visibility. This was in particular due to the fact that the eastern borders of the land slope upwards. Lightsource duly planned the new solar farm so that it lay in the lower, most level areas of the land, avoiding the slope. In addition, in accordance with the wishes of Taunton Deane Council, Lightsource says it will be planting a hazel coppice to screen the site on the eastern boundary as a condition of planning approval.

Connor McGuigan, business development director for Lightsource, said: “When we develop a new solar farm, we are entering into an agreement with the landowner and council for a period of 25 years. Therefore we are required to demonstrate that the land we build on is protected and used correctly to its fullest potential in order to obtain planning permission.

“We are strong advocates of biodiversity. Higher Knapp Farm will not only benefit from a hazel coppice, but a range of specialist wildflowers will be planted to fallow the land.”

The council had also noted concerns around water retention during the construction period. In response, Lightsource says it conducted a detailed flood risk assessment and submitted a surface management plan which was reviewed satisfactorily by the Environmental Agency.

“Our tenancy duration runs for a long period of time and it is imperative that we address any concerns like flooding risks upfront to ensure there will be no impact on the surrounding area. It is in our best interests to work with the council and address local concerns collectively” Conor added.

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