Agenda item

20211286 - The Old Dairy, Bocoda Hill Farm, Wrotham Road, South Street, Meopham, Gravesend, Kent, DA13 0QG

Decision:

Resolved that the application be APPROVED Planning Permission subject to the Conditions listed below:

 

Conditions

 

Time Limit

 

1.         The development hereby approved shall be begun not later than 3 years following the date of this permission.

 

Reason: In pursuance of Section 91 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as amended by Section 51 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

 

Approved Plans

 

2.         The development hereby permitted shall be carried out in precise accordance with the following approved plans and particulars:

 

SolarEdge three phase inverter datasheet received 13 October 2021;

Drawing (The Old Dairy Position of Inverter) received 14 October 2021;

Application form received 21 October 2021;

Drawing (The Old Dairy Solar Panels) received 25 October 2021;

Drawing (The Old Dairy Solar Panels – Location Plan) received 25 October 2021; and SolarEdge Designer Report received 14 December 2021.

 

Reason: For the avoidance of doubt and in the interests of proper planning.

 

Details of Solar Panels

 

3.         The solar panels hereby permitted shall not be erected until full details of the solar panel array, including details of their height, mounting and distance from the ground, have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The development shall be carried out in accordance with the approved details and retained as such thereafter.

 

            Reason: In order to protect and enhance the character and appearance of the site and locality, and in the interests of residential amenity, in accordance with Policies CS12 and CS19 of the Gravesham Local Plan Core Strategy 2014.

 

Soft Landscaping Scheme

 

4.         The solar panels hereby permitted shall not be erected until full details of a soft landscaping scheme associated with the development, including boundary screening and grass seeding or turfing, have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The details to be submitted shall include planting plans, including specifications or species, sizes, planting centres, number and percentage mix, and details of seeding or turfing.

 

            The approved landscaping scheme shall thereafter be implemented and maintained in accordance with the approved details. All planting, seeding and turfing comprised in the approved scheme of landscaping shall be implemented during the first planting season following the completion of the development. Any trees, plants or grass which within 5 years of planting are removed or become seriously damaged or diseased shall be replaced in the next planting season with others of a similar size and species, unless the Local Planning Authority gives written consent to any variation.

 

            Reason: In order to protect and enhance the character and appearance of the site and locality in accordance with Policies CS12 and CS19 of the Gravesham Local Plan Core Strategy 2014.

 

Expiry Date

 

5.         This permission shall expire within 25 years from the date when electricity is first exported (the ‘First Export Date’) from the solar panels to the host dwelling (The Old Dairy). Written notification of the First Export Date shall be provided to the Local Planning Authority no later than 14 days after this event.

 

Reason: To enable the Local Planning Authority to control the development in the interests of the openness of the Green Belt, and in accordance with Policies CS02, CS12 and CS19 of the Local Plan Core Strategy 2014.

 

Removal of Solar Panels

 

6.         Within three months of the solar panels hereby permitted ceasing to be used for the generation of electricity, or the end of this permission, whichever is the earliest, or in the event that the solar panels are no longer required to power the Southern Water pump associated with the host dwelling, the solar panels and associated infrastructure shall be permanently removed from the land, and the site restored to its former condition, in accordance with details to be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority prior to these works being carried out.

 

            Reason: In order to protect and enhance the long-term character and appearance of the site and locality in accordance with Policies CS12 and CS19 of the Gravesham Local Plan Core Strategy 2014.

 

INFORMATIVES:-

 

1          WORKS OF CONSTRUCTION

 

Hours of work of construction site plant, equipment and machinery, should be restricted

to not earlier than 7.00 a.m. and not later than 6.00 p.m. weekdays and Saturday

working should be restricted to not earlier than 8.00a.m. and not later than 1.00 p.m. No

work shall be carried out on Sundays, Bank or Public Holidays.

 

i. Suitable sound attenuation shall be used at all times in respect of all plant, machinery

and equipment in operation on site in order to aid prevention of noise nuisance.

Compliance with BS 5228: Part 1: 1984 and subsequent amendments regarding the use

of equipment on site will be required in appropriate cases.

 

ii. A suitable method of control shall be used in order to aid prevention of dust nuisance

arising from work activities on site.

 

iii. Burning of waste materials shall not be carried out on site. Such materials are to be

stored in a suitable receptacle, as far from residential accommodation as reasonably

practicable, pending disposal off site.

 

iv. Adequate arrangements shall be made to remove all waste material from the site on a

regular basis and to dispose of it at a suitably licensed waste disposal site.

 

2          DEVIATION FROM APPROVED PLANS

 

It is possible that any proposed deviation from the approved plans could be classed as a

‘material’ change requiring a further application/permission. In the event that any change

is proposed, applicants are advised to seek advice from the Local Planning Authority [as

proceeding without the necessary permissions could nullify this permission].

 

3          BUILDING REGULATIONS CONSENT

 

The granting of planning permission is independent from the granting of Building

Regulations consent (which may, or may not, be required). In the event of a change to

the scheme granted planning permission being required to satisfy the Building

Regulations, applicants are advised to seek advice from the Local Planning Authority [as

proceeding without the necessary permissions could nullify this permission].

 

4          FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

 

You should be aware that the development hereby approved does not constitute any

form of structure and cannot be used to justify the development of a future building(s) on

the site. You should contact the Local Planning Authority about any such proposals in

the first instance.

 

5          STATEMENT OF POSITIVE AND PROACTIVE APPROACH TO DECISION-MAKING

 

In accordance with Article 35 (2) of the Town and Country Planning (Development

Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (as amended), and paragraph 38 of the

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2021, the Local Planning Authority has

approached the assessment and determination of this application in a positive and

creative way and, where appropriate, has worked pro-actively with the applicant to

secure a development that is sustainable and that improves the economic, social and

environmental conditions of the area, and that is in accordance with the Development

Plan for the area.

 

Minutes:

The Committee considered 20211286in relation to The Old Dairy, Bocoda Hill Farm, Wrotham Road, South Street, Meopham, Gravesend, Kent, DA13 0QG.  The application wasfor the installation of solar panels.

 

The Team Leader (Development Management) explained to the Committee that there is a correction in the report at paragraph 4.3 relating to Cllr Tiran's comment, which should simply state that "a single resident made contact with her to raise their objection".

 

The Chair explained that in the report the reason for referral states Councillor Call In.  The application would have been referred to this committee as there is a fine balance to be drawn for this development that is within the Green Belt.

 

The Team Leader (Development Management) introduced application 20211286 to the Committee and highlighted key points from the report.

 

  • The proposed solar panels would be positioned in an area to the northern boundary of Bocoda Hill Farm Cottage.
  • The site falls within the Green Belt and also the Meopham Downs Landscape Character Area.
  • The Old Dairy forms part of a previous farm complex which has all since been converted to dwellings.
  • There are 66 solar panels proposed, laid out in 6 rows of 11 panels. Each panel is 1.73m by 1.1m and will be no higher than 0.5m off the ground. Each row of panels will be 19m wide, with 1.5m space between each row to allow for the retention and maintenance of the lawn. The overall area covered by the panels would be 268m2 .
  • A trench approximately 90m long will be required for the cabling to connect the solar panels to an inverter located in the garage of The Old Dairy.
  • They key consideration of this application is whether it is acceptable development within the Green Belt. The fundamental aim of Green Belt Policy is to prevent urban sprawl by preserving the open and permanent characteristics of the Green Belt.
  • As stated in paragraph 147 of the NPPF, inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.
  • Paragraph 151 of the NPPF confirmed that elements of many renewable energy projects will comprise inappropriate development and as such this proposal must demonstrate very special circumstances, such as wider environmental benefits, to be considered acceptable.
  • Due to the site currently being devoid of any buildings or structures, the proposal will reduce the openness and encroach into the countryside. 
  • Guidance states that the impact on the openness should take into account the spatial and visual impact, the duration of a development and its remediability, and the degree of activity resulting from the use, such as traffic generation.
  • The area surrounding the application site consists of open fields, wooded and hedgerow edges.
  • The manmade shape and layout would appear out of place but is off-set by the fact they are low to the ground, will have space around them for grass to grow and not visible from a public vantage point.
  • Although the panels are additional built development, the impact is not substantial as they are not a permanent development and will be removed when no longer required, or within 25 years. The harm on the openness is therefore limited and localised.
  • The surrounding properties are in excess of 50 and 60 meters away from the solar panels.
  • The development will be most visible to Bocoda Hill Farm Cottage but additional planting is proposed to lessen the impact.
  • The development is considered to safeguard neighbour amenity.
  • The very special circumstances focus on the renewable energy benefits of the proposal.  The property currently has a very high electrical demand which is four times that of a typical domestic property, as explained in paragraph 6.25 to 6.27 of the report.  This does not constitute a solar farm due to it being for a single residential property.
  • The provisions of renewable and low carbon energy is central to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development set out in the NPPF.
  • Policy CS18 of the Local Plan Core Strategy seeks to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the Borough and supports stand alone renewable energy.
  • Gravesham Borough Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and are committed to achieving carbon neutral status.
  • As there are no other examples of this type of development in the Borough, an example appeal has been provided in Appendix 1.  This is similar in scale providing 67 panels in 5 rows covering an area of 300m2, within the Green Belt and landscape character area.
  • The Inspector concluded, for that similar application, that the proposal was an inappropriate development in the Green Belt with moderate harm from loss of openness. The slight harm to the character and appearance was sufficiently outweighed by other material considerations, namely their temporary and reversible nature and the wider environmental benefits. The proposal therefore amounted to very special circumstances. 
  • The environmental benefits and acceptability of the impact of this proposal on the character and appearance of the areas are sufficient to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt in this instance. This is considered to amount to the very special circumstances required to justify the proposal.  On this basis the application is acceptable and is compliant with national and local planning policy.

 

In response to Members questions on the clarification of the application, the Team Leader (Development Management) explained that:

 

  • As to why the panels are positioned at the bottom of The Old Dairy rather than the application property, this was the location applied for.  The nearest dwelling is 50m away.
  • Soft landscaping would lessen the visual impact of the solar panels and would not affect any overshadowing on the solar panels.
  • There were 2 representations objecting to the application which have been summarised in paragraph 4.2 of the report.
  • With regards to a question that was asked about whether the NPPF and Local Plan have any policies in respect to the benefits of environmental gains and size and scale of renewable energy sources, the Team Leader (Development Management) explained that the policies are generic and each case has to be determined on its own merits in terms of scale. 
  • The Applicant was in attendance and although had withdrawn his right to speak as a Registered Speaker, the Chair asked the Applicant to clarify why the location of the solar panels was chosen.  The Applicant explained that the top right of the site was exposed to sunlight all day long.

 

The Committee heard from Cllr Denise Tiran, a Ward Councillor for Meopham South.  Cllr Tiran had been approached by a local resident wishing to object to this application and having received an update from the Planning Officer could see both sides of the argument.  The local residents objections were on the appearance of the area, queries as to why there were so many solar panels and Cllr Tiran received clarification on both those issues. Cllr Tiran explained that as the Ward Councillor she had neutral opinions as they are both residents of her ward and would refer the decision to the Planning Committee.

 

Cllr Tiran also confirmed that the correction in the report at paragraph 4.3 that the Team Leader (Development Management) explained at the start of this application relating to Cllr Tiran's comment, which should simply state that "a single resident made contact with her to raise their objection" was correct.

 

TheTeam Leader(Development Management)fielded questionsfrom Membersand  the following items were discussed:

 

  • Concerns were given over the location and visibility of the solar panels.  The Chair explained that as they are only 0.5m high these solar panels would not have such a visual impact, neighbours may be able to catch glimpses of them but would need to be high up to actually see them.  The nearest neighbours are 50 and 60m away and even if you can see them, it does not mean they would be harmful to those residents. The Team Leader (Development Management) explained that there is no right to a view and no right to maintain that view.
  • As there has been no development like this before in Gravesham, the Committee viewed the Planning Inspector’s decision on a similar appeal in another authority. 
  • Concerns were raised in terms of setting a precedence for any other development. The Team Leader (Development Management) explained that each application is determined on its own merits and due to the temporary nature of these solar panels, they are considered a non-permanent feature and although could be there a long time, they are different from a built structure.
  • The Chair confirmed that any decision taken by this Committee would not be binding on any future application.  No two locations in Gravesham would be the same. 
  • The Team Leader (Development Management) explained that there was no information regarding the reflective nature of these panels and re-emphasised that the neighbouring properties are 50 and 60m away so unlikely be an issue.
  • Cllr Rice expressed his concerns regarding the Green Belt and how many other properties in Gravesham would submit applications like this one. On the other hand should the Council be denying owners of properties trying to reduce the high level of energy costs and attempting to go carbon neutral. The Council could benefit from a more refined policy instead of a generic one. The Chair thanked Cllr Rice for a well-reasoned argument and highlighting the dilemma at the heart of the Green Belt.  The Team Leader (Development Management) explained that this application was very unique with their very high electricity demand which is four times higher than that of a normal domestic supply.  This is partly due to the presence of a pumping station that feeds off their supply and is powered constantly. Other properties in the Green Belt are unlikely to require the number of solar panels needed for this site.
  • The Council needs to be careful to mitigate openness of the Green Belt by building bunds as they ultimately alter the appearance of the area more permanently and would be harder to remove in years to come when the solar panels are removed.
  • Cllr Harding explained that although we cannot say any future applications won’t require the amount of solar panels as this one. That may change when more electrical vehicles require charging points especially on farms with tractors and lorries and this could become a normal sized solar farm.  
  • The Chair supported paragraph 6.35 in the report where the Council declared a climate emergency and reminded members that they all committed to reducing the carbon footfall in the future and this application was looking at the balance on what is permissible and what renewable energy we do have.  The Chair reminded the Committee that as part of Climate Change, Gravesham and KCC had converted the Fastrack Buses to electric buses. 
  • The Assistant Director (Planning) provided further clarification on the two recommendations for permission available to Members.   If Members were comfortable with the recommendation as set out in the report, then they can approve the decision on the basis that Members feel there is not a substantial harm to openness.  However, there is another option to consider regarding, which is if Members consider there to be a significant harm to the openness but if Members are still minded to approve, this must include a referral declaration to the Secretary of State.  Officer consideration is that the impact is not significant, but Members need to clarify whether they agree with the Officers recommendation. 
  • The Chair confirmed that only if the Committee agreed that the harm on the green belt is not significant should the application be approved.
  • The Vice Chair moved the recommendation and this was seconded by Cllr Lane.

 

Resolved that the application be APPROVED Planning Permission subject to the conditions listed in the below.  

 

Conditions

 

Time Limit

 

1.         The development hereby approved shall be begun not later than 3 years following the date of this permission.

 

Reason: In pursuance of Section 91 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as amended by Section 51 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

 

Approved Plans

 

2.         The development hereby permitted shall be carried out in precise accordance with the following approved plans and particulars:

 

SolarEdge three phase inverter datasheet received 13 October 2021;

Drawing (The Old Dairy Position of Inverter) received 14 October 2021;

Application form received 21 October 2021;

Drawing (The Old Dairy Solar Panels) received 25 October 2021;

Drawing (The Old Dairy Solar Panels – Location Plan) received 25 October 2021; and SolarEdge Designer Report received 14 December 2021.

 

Reason: For the avoidance of doubt and in the interests of proper planning.

 

Details of Solar Panels

 

3.         The solar panels hereby permitted shall not be erected until full details of the solar panel array, including details of their height, mounting and distance from the ground, have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The development shall be carried out in accordance with the approved details and retained as such thereafter.

 

            Reason: In order to protect and enhance the character and appearance of the site and locality, and in the interests of residential amenity, in accordance with Policies CS12 and CS19 of the Gravesham Local Plan Core Strategy 2014.

 

Soft Landscaping Scheme

 

4.         The solar panels hereby permitted shall not be erected until full details of a soft landscaping scheme associated with the development, including boundary screening and grass seeding or turfing, have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The details to be submitted shall include planting plans, including specifications or species, sizes, planting centres, number and percentage mix, and details of seeding or turfing.

 

            The approved landscaping scheme shall thereafter be implemented and maintained in accordance with the approved details. All planting, seeding and turfing comprised in the approved scheme of landscaping shall be implemented during the first planting season following the completion of the development. Any trees, plants or grass which within 5 years of planting are removed or become seriously damaged or diseased shall be replaced in the next planting season with others of a similar size and species, unless the Local Planning Authority gives written consent to any variation.

 

            Reason: In order to protect and enhance the character and appearance of the site and locality in accordance with Policies CS12 and CS19 of the Gravesham Local Plan Core Strategy 2014.

 

Expiry Date

 

5.         This permission shall expire within 25 years from the date when electricity is first exported (the ‘First Export Date’) from the solar panels to the host dwelling (The Old Dairy). Written notification of the First Export Date shall be provided to the Local Planning Authority no later than 14 days after this event.

 

Reason: To enable the Local Planning Authority to control the development in the interests of the openness of the Green Belt, and in accordance with Policies CS02, CS12 and CS19 of the Local Plan Core Strategy 2014.

 

Removal of Solar Panels

 

6.         Within three months of the solar panels hereby permitted ceasing to be used for the generation of electricity, or the end of this permission, whichever is the earliest, or in the event that the solar panels are no longer required to power the Southern Water pump associated with the host dwelling, the solar panels and associated infrastructure shall be permanently removed from the land, and the site restored to its former condition, in accordance with details to be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority prior to these works being carried out.

 

            Reason: In order to protect and enhance the long-term character and appearance of the site and locality in accordance with Policies CS12 and CS19 of the Gravesham Local Plan Core Strategy 2014.

 

INFORMATIVES:-

 

1          WORKS OF CONSTRUCTION

 

Hours of work of construction site plant, equipment and machinery, should be restricted

to not earlier than 7.00 a.m. and not later than 6.00 p.m. weekdays and Saturday

working should be restricted to not earlier than 8.00a.m. and not later than 1.00 p.m. No

work shall be carried out on Sundays, Bank or Public Holidays.

 

i. Suitable sound attenuation shall be used at all times in respect of all plant, machinery

and equipment in operation on site in order to aid prevention of noise nuisance.

Compliance with BS 5228: Part 1: 1984 and subsequent amendments regarding the use

of equipment on site will be required in appropriate cases.

 

ii. A suitable method of control shall be used in order to aid prevention of dust nuisance

arising from work activities on site.

 

iii. Burning of waste materials shall not be carried out on site. Such materials are to be

stored in a suitable receptacle, as far from residential accommodation as reasonably

practicable, pending disposal off site.

 

iv. Adequate arrangements shall be made to remove all waste material from the site on a

regular basis and to dispose of it at a suitably licensed waste disposal site.

 

2          DEVIATION FROM APPROVED PLANS

 

It is possible that any proposed deviation from the approved plans could be classed as a

‘material’ change requiring a further application/permission. In the event that any change

is proposed, applicants are advised to seek advice from the Local Planning Authority [as

proceeding without the necessary permissions could nullify this permission].

 

3          BUILDING REGULATIONS CONSENT

 

The granting of planning permission is independent from the granting of Building

Regulations consent (which may, or may not, be required). In the event of a change to

the scheme granted planning permission being required to satisfy the Building

Regulations, applicants are advised to seek advice from the Local Planning Authority [as

proceeding without the necessary permissions could nullify this permission].

 

4          FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

 

You should be aware that the development hereby approved does not constitute any

form of structure and cannot be used to justify the development of a future building(s) on

the site. You should contact the Local Planning Authority about any such proposals in

the first instance.

 

5          STATEMENT OF POSITIVE AND PROACTIVE APPROACH TO DECISION-MAKING

 

In accordance with Article 35 (2) of the Town and Country Planning (Development

Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (as amended), and paragraph 38 of the

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2021, the Local Planning Authority has

approached the assessment and determination of this application in a positive and

creative way and, where appropriate, has worked pro-actively with the applicant to

secure a development that is sustainable and that improves the economic, social and

environmental conditions of the area, and that is in accordance with the Development

Plan for the area.

 

Approved:       8 Members

Abstention:      1 Member

                       

Note:   (a) Mr Nigel Payne (Applicant – in favour) addressed the Committee.

            (b) Ward Councillor Denise Tiran spoke with the leave of the Chair

 

Supporting documents: