Chelmsford solar farm on green belt rejected with casting vote

A plan for a solar farm on 66 hectares of Chelmsford green belt that would have been capable of producing enough power for more than 6,000 homes has been refused thanks to the planning chairman’s casting vote.

The site on land on the western side of the A130 and south of Southlands Cottages in Runwell had been recommended for refusal by officers prior to Chelmsford City Council’s planning committee vote on December 5.

Officers said that the proposed 49.9MW solar farm be refused given its impact on the openness and character of the green belt – despite its benefits in helping the UK become less reliant on fossil fuels.

The decision to refuse was made with planning committee chairman Councillor Jannetta Sosin’s casting vote– following six committee members voting for and six against the farm.

The solar panels would have had a tracking capability, to follow the sun’s path across the sky. Two recent applications led to one being allowed and the other being granted in appeal.

A 49.9MW solar farm on land east and west of A130 and north and south of Canon Barns Road, East Hanningfield was allowed on appeal in December 2022. A 41.8 MW solar farm on land West of Hill Farm Pan Lane was also agreed by committee in January 2022.

Councillor Richard Hyland, who voted for, said: “This application for solar panel installations provides a material service to achieve our own climate goals.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter