Beechgrove Farm Solar Park, Devon near Dorset – LVIA and Ecology
Client: AEE Renewables Plc
CEC were commissioned to produce a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, an Extended Phase I Habitat Survey, a Floodrisk and Drainage Assessment (via H2OK as sub-consultants) and input to planning condition discharge for a proposed solar park near Axminster in Devon. The 4MW array is located on a 12.6ha agricultural site.
Baseline analysis examined the site itself and the area within 5km, including landscape features, designations and characters. Designations included the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) within 1km of the site and the Monarch’s Way National Trail which passes through the site. CEC used landform modeling to generate a Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) to establish the areas that may have views towards the proposed solar farm. These areas were visited and views analysed and recorded, where present. There were also residential properties within close proximity of the site and the views of these were examined in detail. Despite the close proximity of a number of potentially sensitive receptors the report was able to demonstrate that the effect on these was either limited due to existing topography and vegetation or could be easily mitigated with careful site layout and planting.
Planning permission has been granted and the solar park is now operational.
CEC worked closely with AEE Renewables Plc on a number of projects, 9 of which were submitted for planning. All of those were granted permission. Working on a number of projects with the same client enabled us to streamline the project management and produce tailored and consistent packages for their sites.
A suite of design and mitigation measures for solar parks was developed as part of this work, which was then applied consistently to the projects. Measures included:
- Design based on thorough desk studies to adjust layouts to avoid constraints
- Defined buffer zones to mature trees and all hedges allowing for maturing of vegetation and retention of all site features
- Positioning of the fencing at the outer edge of the buffer away from the hedges to allow for creation of a biodiverse strip enhancing the overall habitat value and separated from the sheep grazing areas by the fence
- Use of existing gates and breaks in hedges for access and maintenance routes to minimise disturbance to existing features
- Working closely with planning authority and in some cases AONB officers to agree suitable forms of development during pre-planning stages.