Planning Committee set to rule on Poyle Manor Solar Farm tonight!

Slough Borough Council’s Planning Committee is set to decide on the Poyle Manor Solar Farm tonight.  Officers have recommended that councillors reject the application.

Sirius SBC Renewable's plans for a Solar Farm in Colnbrook.  The individual panels can be identified from the drawings.

Sirius SBC Renewable’s plans for a Solar Farm in Colnbrook. The individual panels can be identified from the drawings.

Sirius SBC Renewables’ application for a temporary, 25-year permission, to construct and operate a solar photovoltaic farm is set to be discussed at tonight’s meeting of the Planning Committee.

Planning officers have recommended the application be refused on the basis of impact to the Green Belt and Colne Valley Park.  They also cite the “loss of important open land within the Strategic Gap at Colnbrook and Poyle”, making direct references to the SIFE public inquiry.

The combination of its existing fragmentation and vulnerability … mean that it is all the more important to prevent other inappropriate development in the Green Belt, because of the cumulative impact that this could have.

The officers’ recommendation, if backed by committee members tonight, would put the Council at odds with the Parish Council on the development.  The latter has ignored its own stated policy to defend the Green Belt to back the scheme, as we reported two weeks ago.

Officers' decision: The area has already suffered from major infrastructure development, which has changed the nature of the landscape. This has included the construction of the reservoirs, the M4 and M25 motorways and all of the Heathrow related development. It is also under pressure from many urban fringe type developments. The area also has a number of major new infrastructure proposals which include SIFE, the Western Rail Link to Heathrow, the M4 Smart Motorway scheme and the proposed third runway at Heathrow. The combination of its existing fragmentation and vulnerability to major new developments that are being promoted because they are of national or regional importance mean that it is all the more important to prevent other inappropriate development in the Green Belt, because of the cumulative impact that this could have.

Slough’s Highways department has raised concerns over unquantified HGV movements and suggested an alternative route via a new access road being built for CEMEX.

The application includes fencing, internal service tracks, transformer and inverter stations, cabling, CCTV, landscaping substations and ancillary cabins, and was referred to the Planning Committee for consideration as the application is considered to be a major development.

Sheep-grazing-under-soilar-panels-credit-British-Solar-Renewables

The officers’ report to committee members notes that the Parish Council has concerns about landscaping but is “very positive” about the £14,000 index-linked Community Benefit Fund offered.  Nevertheless it urges caution about the private agreement between Sirius SBC and the Parish Council:

Members should be mindful that any agreement will not be secured via a Section 106 Agreement as the Local Planning Authority has not been party to the discussions.

The development has divided opinion.  On these pages at least residents have, without exception, rejected the scheme.  However, despite the nearest residential property, on the Old Bath Road, being just 10 metres from the site boundary not a single representation was received.  Slough distributed 138 letters in late July to residential and commercial properties on Old Bath Road, Coleridge Crescent, Poyle Road, Cottesbrooke Close, and Tall Trees!

However, as of this evening, neither has any deadline for responses been set, nor any date for its consideration by committee been advised to residents on the planning portal.

138 letters were sent out but Slough didn't set a deadline for responses from the wider community.

138 letters were sent out but Slough hasn’t set a deadline for responses from the wider community.

Colnbrook ward and parish councillor Dexter Smith told Colnbrook Views in April that “letting any part of our Green Belt go is the thin edge of the wedge, and I would oppose it on that basis”.  We will shortly see if Cllr Smith has been able to convince his colleagues on the Committee of the same.

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