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High Court orders re-think on solar farm planning refusal near Beccles

PUBLISHED: 12:16 24 June 2014

A solar farm

A solar farm

Archant

An energy company denied planning permission by the Government to build one of the country’s largest solar farms near Beccles, has won a second chance at London’s High Court.

One of the country’s top judges, Mr Justice Lindblom, ordered Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to reconsider the controversial proposal, which would involve more than 90,000 solar panels on fields at Ellough.

Planning permission has already been granted for a smaller solar farm at the site, but the company now hopes it will have more luck in securing a 25-year planning permission for the larger development on the 46 hectare site – equivalent to almost 65 football pitches - adjacent to Ellough Airfield on Benacre Road.

Lark Energy claimed that Mr Pickles had wrongly rejected its application despite his own planning inspector finding that the solar farm would cause only limited harm to its surroundings and would not have significant environmental effects.

The inspector had found that the proposal complied with development plan policies and recommended granting permission.

And, upholding the claim, the judge said: “The decision letter contains an assessment of the planning merits which is clearly at odds with the inspector’s.”

He said that the final decision contained an assessment that the proposal complied with one of two key policies in the development, but not the other – a policy “concerned with the protection of landscape character”.

But he said that the Communities Secretary failed to explain how he would reconcile his conclusions relating to those policies when he had disagreed with the inspector.

He found that Mr Pickles reasons left “genuine doubt” that he had made his decision properly in accordance with the 2004 Planning Act.

The judge rejected three other grounds of challenge, but quashed the decision and ordered the matter to be reconsidered in the light of his ruling.

The scheme was originally rejected by Waveney District Council, against the recommendation of its own planning officer, in February 2013.

The Secretary of State rejected Lark Energy’s appeal in October 2013.

In between, in April 2013, the Council did grant permission for a much smaller solar farm on about 29 hectares in the northern part of the site.

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