Inspector approves development of Sandon Brook solar farm

The Sandon Brook scheme has been backed by a planning inspector (pic Low Carbon)

A planning inspector has overruled Chelmsford City Council and decided the Sandon Brook solar farm can be built despite harming the Green Belt.
The council had refused permission for the 242-acre development over three sites either side of the A130 and Canons Barn Road near West Hanningfield, but inspector Ben Plenty said its environmental benefits outweighed any harm to the Green Belt.
Since the council had refused permission for Low Carbon’s scheme in 2021, two nearby solar farms – Canon Barns in the Green Belt and Hill Farm next to the Green Belt – were approved. “These decisions are material considerations that I will take into account within this decision,” said Mr Plenty.
“The proposed solar farm [at Sandon Brook] is substantially larger than the Canon Barns site, with clear contextual differences. Nevertheless, it is plainly evident that a larger site, such as the current proposal that may have a greater impact, would also deliver a greater level of power output thus making a greater contribution towards the production of renewable energy. This benefit weighs strongly in favour of the scheme.”
He concluded: “The public benefits of the proposal are of sufficient magnitude to outweigh the substantial harm found to the Green Belt and all other harm identified above [see link to decision below].
“These benefits identified attract very substantial weight in favour of the scheme. In this context, the harm to the Green Belt would be clearly outweighed by the other considerations identified and therefore the very special circumstances necessary to justify the development exist.
“Accordingly, the proposal would satisfy the local and national Green Belt policies I have already outlined [see link to decision below].”

  • You can read the inspector’s decision here
  • Read more about the Sandon Brook scheme here