Plan for large-scale solar farm near Northampton refused

Plans for a large solar farm near Northampton refused
Plans for a large solar farm near Northampton refused

A proposal for a large-scale solar energy farm outside Northampton has been refused after three councils objected to the plan.

The application for Preston Lodge Farm included 17,484 solar panels to the height of 2.9m, along with inverter/transfer buildings, two substations, a perimeter fence and CCTV.

But it was refused last week by South Northamptonshire Council’s development control committee after three parish councils and six letters of objection complained that the proposal, outlined for fields to the north of Preston Deanery, would compromise “prime agricultural land” and “rural tranquillity” in the county.

The final decision, made on Thursday (July 2) followed recommendations from Little Houghton, Great Houghton and Hackleton Parish Councils.

An officer’s report on the application said: “The site contributes to the special rural qualities that define the district of south Northamptonshire comprising undulating rural landscape with a tangible sense of remoteness and rural tranquillity.

“In particular the site assists in providing a tranquil rural walk to users of the public right of way network that traverses through the centre of the site.”

The site proposed for the application is within an area designated as an ‘important local gap’ in the Local Plan designed to prevent the coalescence of Northampton with nearby villages and hamlets.

Councillor Rebecca Breese, SNC’s portfolio holder for planning and environment, said: “This proposal would have resulted in the loss of some prime agricultural land on the outskirts of Northampton.

“And while there is a need for more renewable energy, this proposal would have been an unacceptable intrusion into a tranquil, yet well used, rural setting.”

Planners also recommended the application for refusal as it did not include an appropriate level of archaeological evaluation, and in the absence of evidence to justify the loss of quality agricultural land.