Welsh rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths has refused plans for a 150 hectare solar farm between Cardiff and Newport that would have powered 32,000 homes for 40 years against the advice of an inspector, citing harm to the Gwent Levels designated landscape.
Following a hearing, Inspector Hywel Wyn Jones recommended the scheme for approval. Griffiths was satisfied with many of the inspector’s findings, agreeing that the scheme complied with green wedge policy and would have an acceptable impact on nearby heritage, archaeological and coastal designations. She was also satisfied that the scheme would be compliant with flood risk policy, and that biodiversity enhancements could be secured by planning condition.
However, she did not agree with the inspector regarding the scheme’s impact on the Gwent Levels, a nearby designated landscape of historic interest. Contrary to Jones’ recommendation that the harm he had found to the landscape should attract only moderate weight, Griffiths found an “unacceptable” impact. Although she acknowledged “the need for renewable energy in order to combat the climate emergency” and the strong support for low carbon energy generation in the Future Wales 2040 plan, she noted that the appeal scheme would be in situ for 40 years. “This is the equivalent of two generations, a significant period during which an appreciation of the outstanding historic quality of the landscape would be affected”, she ruled. Concluding that the scheme’s adverse impacts outweighed its benefits, she rejected the application.