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Updates from SOWLIS


On 9th March 2022, Large Solar Farms were debated in the UK Parliament.

Key Points

  • No MP’s from Kent spoke, they were mainly from the South West and mid-UK

  • Concerns were raised about current applications for large industrial scale developments on good agricultural land.

  • Food security, food supplies and food prices are particularly important given the Ukraine situation – large scale suppliers of wheat with impact on prices of animal feed etc.

  • Human abuses in the solar supply chain particularly manufacturing in China

  • Overall carbon footprint of the solar supply chain not currently taken into account, difficulty with measuring carbon footprints of developments

  • Abuse of the local planning system with views of local people and local MPs downgraded, lack of public consultation/engagement/involvement

  • Surreptitious approvals of battery farms in inappropriate locations, fire risk, flood risks

  • Poor co-location of generation of solar power and use of solar power

  • Beauty, identity and character which underpins tourism in the countryside so developments potentially negatively impact on tourism

  • Archbishop of Canterbury – role mentioned with regard to appointing trustees to the charitable trust Henry Smith Charity, which has an option to explore the potential for a 600 acre solar farm.

Response from Government

  • Solar is key to government strategy for low cost energy and decarbonisation. Acknowledge that large scale solar is one of UK’s cheapest renewable generation technologies but government acknowledges that there are externalities to that strategy.

  • In 2021, the government set up the national infrastructure planning reform programme and will consult on reform proposals later this year (2022). This will include reviewing national policy statements for energy.

  • As part of that review, recommend MPs raise the need for a clearer national policy statement with the Minister for Energy, and the Planning Minister

  • Draft revised national policy statement for renewables includes section on solar projects providing “specific guidance to decision makers on the impact on, for example, local amenities, biodiversity, landscape, wildlife and land use”. Government to publish a response to the consultation on the revised national policy statement shortly.

  • Developers must complete proper community engagement; planning guidance also clear that large scale solar farms should focus on previously developed and non-greenfield land.

  • With regards to precedents in terms of planning for large scale solar farms, “only one large-scale solar application has been approved, in Kent”.

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Earlier this month, Ashford Borough Council made their decision with respect to the scoping opinion for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

It is the Council’s considered opinion that the SR does not fully address the potential environmental as well as social and economic impacts of the proposed development. The SR would appear to exclude issues on the basis of insufficient information and research. It is therefore considered inappropriate to exclude the matters that are set out below on the basis that there are unlikely to be significant effects on the environment as a result of the proposed development.

Input was provided by various organisations, including Ashford Borough Council, Canterbury City Council, Chilham Parish Council, SOWLIS and many others, along with many concerned residents and lovers of the local area.

Download PDF • 213KB

Complete information relating to the scoping opinion can be found here, including the various comments and responses.

UPDATE March 2022: Unfortunately it seems information relating to the scoping opinion has been removed from the planning portal. We have sought clarification from Ashford Borough Council but have yet to receive further updates.

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Earlier this month, SOWLIS submitted our response to the EIA Scoping Report to Ashford Borough Council.

The full response can be found below.

SOWLIS -EIAScopingDirectionResponseNov21
Download PDF • 209KB

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