Natural England (NE) have used the term ‘Solar Parks’ to describe ground mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) modules covering an area of between 2 and 15 hectares.  Other terms frequently used to describe such installations are ‘Solar Farms’ or ‘Large PV Arrays’.  It’s interesting that the use of words like ‘parks’ and ‘farms’ hint at a use that would be benign in a rural area and it can be, with the right design and location.

Key environmental factors in choosing an appropriate location for solar parks are:

  • Landscape (designation, character, visual, geology and geomorphology);
  • Soil (protection and husbandry);
  • Watercourses (protection); and
  • Biodiversity (protection and mitigation).

Along with more technical issues of the available solar resource and a suitable grid connection, locating a suitable site isn’t a straightforward task.  However, when developing a scheme the potential for enhancement should also be considered, so that the only benefit isn’t the income from electricity generation.

Existing plans, such as Biodiversity Actions Plans and Landscape strategies, could point to what enhancements are preferable, such as hedgerow creation, the establishment of wildflower meadows or tree planting.  Any of these would have to be done in such a way as to avoid overshadowing, but leave a positive effect on the site and surrounding area.

The Natural England Technical Information Note (TIN101) provides more detail on the issues mentioned above.  Do you require planning advice or does your planned solar park require planning permission?  If you do call David Hortin of the Kirkwells team on 01282 872570 to discuss your needs and how we can help you.

©Kirkwells Town Planners and Sustainable Development Consultants based at the Lancashire Digital Technology Centre in Burnley
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