Boom Power granted permission for Solar Farm on Essex Green Belt site

13 Sep 2023

Planning and Environment, Cornerstone Climate

Planning permission has been granted for a solar farm that will deliver clean zero-carbon electricity generation for over 12,500 homes in the Basildon area following an appeal by developers Boom Power.

The appellant succeeded on each of the issues identified by the Inspector.

Of particular interest is Inspector Paul Jackson’s approach to very special circumstances that outweigh harm to the Green Belt. He concluded:

“A number of circumstances combine to indicate the proposed site may be suitable for solar renewable energy, including the proximate grid connection, the lack of any evidence of any ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land on the site, the mixed nature of the area including industrial, farm and domestic buildings and not least, its identification as suitable, along with other areas of Green Belt countryside around Basildon, by the Council in the RLCECOA. No available sites providing anything approaching an equivalent contribution to renewable energy have become available in Basildon, and no comparable schemes on brownfield land or on commercial roofs. No other sites have come forward except that at Barleylands adjacent to the proposed Crays Hall Farm scheme and that has been rejected. The proposal allows for continued commercial use for sheep grazing and includes very significant biodiversity enhancements. The Council maintains that very special circumstances do not exist for any of these factors individually, but acknowledges that in combination some circumstances may collectively outweigh the harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness…… the provision of a renewable energy scheme with a generation capacity of 25.6MW, and annual generation output of 36,499.26 MWh, offsetting 13,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually whilst potentially meeting the electrical needs of 12,585 homes attracts very significant weight…”

Jonathan Clay of Cornerstone Barristers acted for the developers. He said: “This is an important decision to lead the way in finding suitable sites for renewable energy development urgently needed for reasons of environment, climate change, and energy security and affordability.”

Jonathan’s experience includes all aspects of planning and environmental law, including judicial review, statutory appeals and major infrastructure projects. Learn more about his practice here.

Read the full appeal decision here.