Basildon Council told it wrongly refused plan for 50-football pitch solar farm

A solar farm the size of around 50 football pitches near Billericay has been given the green light after a Government inspector said Basildon Council’s own policies on climate change “requires significant and urgent action”.

Boom Power’s plans for its 25.6MW Crays Hall Solar Farm to the east of Billericay is set to generate enough capacity to power around 12,500 households.

The council had refused the application in December 2022 on the grounds it would harm the landscape character and visual amenity of open green belt. But Inspector Paul Jackson ruled increasing local renewable energy generation forms part of one of the three key pillars of the council’s own 2020 climate change strategy and action plan.

The inspector says the effect “would be moderate to major adverse, reducing to moderate with mitigation within a few years”. He added none of the public right of ways would be affected for a significant distance except the Ramsden Crays Circular Walk which would be most seriously affected, including views of solar arrays at the nearby Outwood solar farm.

The proposal would allow for continued agricultural use for grazing where applicable and argues biodiversity improvements around arrays would be encouraged

Boom Power says the scheme will assist the council in their quest to target borough-wide net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It adds the scheme will increase the proportion of locally produced renewable energy – aiding the council in its aims to deliver locally produced renewable energy from a baseline of five per cent 90 per cent by 2050.

In reaching his decision, Inspector Paul Jackson said: “National policy sets out the urgency for new energy infrastructure to contribute to a secure, diverse and affordable energy supply. The council’s 2020 Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan calls for and requires significant and urgent action. Increasing local renewable energy generation forms part of one of the three key pillars of the action plan.”

Mark Hogan, Founder of Boom Power said: “It is a very welcome appeal decision which reinforces the team’s dedication to ensure all our projects are sympathetic to the natural landscape and deliver real, crucial benefits. Crays Hall is an important project in our pipeline, and we expect it to play an equally important role in supporting the strategic vision for rapid decarbonisation to build climate resilience. I am proud of what we have achieved and look forward to getting the construction underway in the first half of next year.”

Head of planning for Boom Power, Jack Spurway said: “The appeal decision is fantastic, it is the outcome that we all wanted and expected, receiving it ahead of the determination deadline is an added bonus. The decision reflects the fact that we acted quickly and put the right team in place to support our appeal.”

An application for costs has been made by Boom Energy Ltd against Basildon Borough Council. This application is the subject of a separate decision.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter