Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 10, 2018

The Lathom Solar Farm Done Deal

“It seems the solar application at Lathom was a “done deal” from the start…no matter how many objections…a Labour councilor said it was 99% going through…the Planning committee meeting was a fiasco…two Labour councilors spoke and got their facts completely wrong…they should all hang their heads in shame” all in a letter from Historical Lathom Residents Group.

“What a complete stitch-up between West Lancs Council, the Labour councilors and now the ex-Mayor of West Lancs, approving the solar application at Lathom”.

We’ve been here before, on many occasions. The Local Plan stitch up, Aughton Parrs Lane, Burscough Yew Tree Farm, Halsall, you name a locality and there is no localism at all. Big national developers, huge housing estates with no additional worthwhile infrastructure, and the certainty of flooding that you can see all around you today after the overnight thunderstorms.

In the case papers the WLBC Director of Development and Regeneration wrote about some principles. Of employment land he wrote “The Northern Array is located on land designated as an ‘other significant employment site’. Policy EC1(b)(iii) states that only B1 development will be allowed on the site. The proposed solar array does not fall into this category of development, however, the impact of climate change is acknowledged throughout the Local Plan and according to the supporting information submitted with the application direct benefits would be experienced by the business through the reduction in energy cost associated with the solar development. Therefore, whilst the development would not strictly accord with Policy EC1, I am satisfied that it would be in accordance with one of the main themes of the Development Plan, to promote sustainable development”.

Of the Green Belt he wrote “The proposed Southern Array would be located within land designated as Green Belt. Paragraphs 89 and 90 of the NPPF set out the forms of development deemed not inappropriate in the Green Belt. The proposal does not fall into any of the categories of development set out. Moreover, paragraph 91 of the NPPF states that when located within the Green Belt, elements of many renewable energy projects will comprise inappropriate development. On that basis the proposal would be an inappropriate form of development in the Green Belt. Paragraph 87 of the NPPF explains that inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances. Paragraph 88 clarifies that ‘very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations”. The proposed solar farm is inappropriate development in the Green Belt, resulting in a reduction in openness and encroachment into the countryside and is by definition harmful to the Green Belt. This harm must be weighed against the very special circumstances put forward by the applicant.

And then along came the “very special circumstances” that you would expect to see, most of which is bullshit. “It is important that Green Belt consideration should assess, in a balanced way, the very special circumstances put forward by the applicant. The NPPF confirms that very special circumstances will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations. There are no defined criteria for assessing what constitutes very special circumstances and each case must be judged on its own merits”.

But as sure as night follows day criteria appeared. “The proposed solar farm and creation of renewable energy would have a direct benefit to the NSG Technical Centre , which is a significant employer in the Borough, by bringing economic benefits to NSG by reducing their overall energy cost and in addition to this, allowing them to showcase their work to visitors of the site. Economically, the creation of the solar farm would also assist rural diversification and would provide a mixed use of the land functioning for agricultural purposes, and for the production of renewable energy”. And therein lies the mound of bullshit…economic benefits to NSG …which is a significant employer in the Borough…showcasing their work…these are so special as to convince some Labour planning councillors to grant permission.

The Labour councillors have set a precedent for any other future applicant for solar farms in West Lancashire. As the Parrs Lane Public Inquiry result is already quoted in case law, so now will Lathom LightsourceBP. Perhaps the lack of respect for consideration of the War Horses and of the Skelmersdale Veterans whose petition of 400 names received short shrift will shame West Lancashire Labour? Probably not.

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