‘Thumbs down’ to plan for solar farm near Crediton

A PLAN for a large solar farm near Crediton received the thumbs down from Crediton Hamlets Parish Council this week.

Dunscombe Solar Ltd of Farnham, Surrey, has applied for the erection of a solar farm (4.9MW), landscaping and associated infrastructure, access and underground cables on land at Dunscombe, Newton St Cyres, which is close to Downes Crediton Golf Club.

Members of the public, including many local residents and opponents of the plan and members of Crediton Hamlets Parish Council listened to Peter Grubb of Savills incorporating Smithgore, present details about the plan at Monday’s meeting of the council.

He explained that the site area for the panels would be about 30 acres just above Hookway in two locations, northern and southern parts.

He said the plan had “proven green credentials”, was the equivalent of two large-scale wind turbines, and would provide enough power for 1,000 local homes.

Mr Grubb outlined how construction would take about 12 weeks and would require 87 two-way trips by HGV’s to bring in the panels, etc.

He said ecological and other surveys had been completed and added that in total, nine per cent of the area of the plan was in agricultural land grade 3a, 76 per cent was in grade 3b and 2.7 per cent was in grade 4.

The council chairman noted that land grades 1, 2 and 3a are classed as “best and most versatile farmland” and that Mid Devon District Council has a policy of refusing all applications for solar farms in land grades 1, 2 and 3a.

One councillor said she remembered that the fields in question had been very productive for the past 70 years that she could remember.

In addition to questions raised about land quality values, notably that the soil classifications were questionable for the site produced by the association commissioned by the applicants, there was also some concern raised about the cable connection to the nearest 33kv National Grid cable.

This was near Downes Crediton Golf Club but the applicants preferred route for the cable was along the A377, across the railway line and river.

An alternative suggested by Mr Grubb was that the cable ran under Downes Crediton Golf Club as the applicant Downes Estate, was also the owner of Downes Crediton Golf Club.

Mr Grubb said that once a solar farm of this size had been connected to the National Grid in the Crediton area, this would mean that there was no more capacity for future connections to the National Grid locally.

Community benefits were discussed and Mr Grubb said that the applicant had agreed to a fund being available for local projects administered through Crediton Hamlets Parish Council.

Future maintenance and adhering to planning rules and regulations in the future of the scheme was discussed, as was funding for the project.

Local residents also raised the issue of access to the site, traffic, screening and planting, views and glare from the site, environmental damage, road widening and passing place issues, proximity to the ridge of the hill, the reduction of subsidies for solar farms, etc.


Following lengthy discussion, the council agreed on a statement to go to Mid Devon District Council, the planning authority.

The statement read: “This Parish Council is unanimous in its opposition to the application for the proposed solar farm. The loss of a substantial quantity of farmland in an important agricultural area has to be questioned.

“The Council would therefore wish to see an independent review of the classification of the fields to be used to justify the conversion to a non-agricultural activity.

“It is recognised though that the planning authority must decide the application on its merits and in accordance with the current government guidelines. If, on balance, the authority is minded to give approval, this Council would wish to see:

1 Alterations to the lane between Hookway Cross and the site to provide additional passing locations, local residents seeking to be involved in the choice of locations

2 The provision of signs at Hookway Cross and Fordton Cross restricting use of the lane to lorries solely to access to properties.

3 Additional screening and redesign of the entrance into the higher field so that those using the public footpath were not confronted by a vista of panels

4 Recognition that the developer will enter into a Community Benefit Agreement

5 A robust planting and hedgerow management agreement is secured with specific reference to the establishment and subsequent ongoing maintenance of the new plantings and screening

6 The route for the cable to be across the golf course.”

Mid Devon District Council’s consultation period for the plan is open for the next few weeks.

Representations should be made to Mid Devon District Council and further details about the plan (application no 15/01194/MFUL) on land at NGR285528 98874 (Dunscombe), can be found on the MDDC website: www.middevon.gov.uk .

Local resident Sue Sims, has objected to the plan and questioned whether local people could expect a reduction in their electricity bills as a benefit of the proposal?

She said she did not believe there was any benefit to the community, and questioned the reasoning for forcing the tenant farmer from the land and the land being taken out of food production.

• What do you think of the plan for a solar farm at Dunscombe? If you have a view, why not share it with fellow Courier readers?

Send a letter, suitable for publication, to the Crediton Courier, 102 High Street, Crediton EX17 3LF or email: [email protected] .