Solar pair’s secret affair

Thursday 30th April 2015 10:00 pm

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Richard Howell, of North Huish, South Brent, writes: It does make you wonder. On March 25, KD Barton, an inspector appointed by the secretary of state for communities and local government, came to the conclusion that the proposed 26-acre solar farm to the south of Halwell Airfield 'would have a very different industrial, rather than ­agricultural, impact'. As far as the landscape was concerned, the inspector explained that 'there would be an adverse local impact on ­character' and that 'in terms of visual impact, there would be extensive and very significant detrimental impacts from ­various viewpoints'. The planned solar farm should not go ahead, he concluded. His decision was greeted enthusiastically by South Hams Council, with a spokesman ­saying: 'We are delighted by the result.' Yet only six days after the inspector had delivered his ­verdict, Allington and Loddiswell councillor Michael Hicks chose to give his approval to the construction of two more solar farms at Collaton Down and Colleen Farm. He was supported in his opinion that 'this application satisfies enough of the accepted criteria to warrant delegation for approval' by fellow Conservative councillor Robert Steer, the chair of the development management committee. In doing so, our two ­councillors chose to ignore the ­objections of Halwell & Moreleigh Parish Council, which said: 'The installation is in effect a major industrial development and is not in keeping with the area's ­character or surroundings in terms of scale or character.' That assessment, some might think, is not so different to that arrived at earlier elsewhere by the inspector appointed by the secretary of state for communities and local government. 'Due to the detrimental effect on the landscape, and the loss of agricultural land' declared the Parish Council, 'the visual impact of not just one, but a profusion of installations, could affect tourism in the South Hams.' Given its concerns, and given the judgement of inspector Barton, and given how delighted South Hams Council was with his judgement, you might wonder why Cllrs Hicks and Steer chose to avoid having the merits of the Collaton Down and Colleen Farm applications aired openly at a meeting of the development management committee. Instead they preferred to give their consent in private, behind closed doors, to yet another application that will once more benefit the few at the expense of the many. As I started my letter, it does make you wonder – not least whether it might now be time for change at our council.

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