This application is in my ward and my preliminary view is that it should be REFUSED.
According to the Devon Landscape Policy Group advice (page 74) on solar and wind farms, the scheme is exceptionally large – 15.8ha is regarded as “very large.” But the proposed Aylesbeare scheme is 22ha, or 55 acres, spanning five fields.
I note the applicant states that the hedgerows and woodland obscures the view of the site from public viewpoints, however, EDDC’s landscape architect (LA) appears to be far from convinced that the scheme will not be visually intrusive.
It is just 300m from the AONB and the LA considers that a wintertime set of photographs to determine the viewpoints when there is no vegetation on the trees and hedges, must be carried out. When I raised this with the developer at Aylesbeare Parish Council’s meeting on Monday evening, he stated that a set of photographs taken last November would be suitable.
I would argue that these photographs would still show, at this time of the year a considerable amount of vegetation on the hedges and trees and a more accurate assessment should be taken in late January when the trees and hedges are at their barest.
The developer states that the agricultural grading of the land is 3b, however, the land is obviously productive, all of it currently in use to grow wheat or other cereal crops. A local farmer at Monday’s Aylesbeare Parish Council meeting commented that this land had always been used for such cereal crop growth. I would therefore, query whether the land has been graded correctly by the developer and would be grateful if this aspect was double-checked.
I see that highways are recommending refusal for the scheme based on the “severely substandard” junction in terms of visibility. I cannot see how the junction could be improved without significantly damaging the Devon hedgebank adjacent to the junction.
I share the concerns of residents living on the Great Houndbeare Farm access track, that the road is not suitable for dozens of 40 tonne lorry movements each day during the construction period, even for a temporary period.
Finally, I note that the developer is not offering any community benefit, which is surprising given the scale of the scheme and the potential financial benefit that would be incurred should the scheme go ahead.
I reserve my position until all the facts are known, or in the event that this application comes to committee.