Removing refusal: permission for solar in Oxfordshire

solar-farm

At the end of August 2015 Earthworm Energy faced a potentially catastrophic scenario. Its planning application for a 5MW solar farm at in Oxfordshire was heading for refusal. And the announcement of huge cuts to government subsidies for new solar energy projects, to take effect from January 2016, meant that there would be no second chance to secure consent. If permission was not secured at the Planning Committee meeting in October, the scheme would be dead in the water, and tens of thousands of pounds wasted.

Earthworm Energy instructed PLMR to devise and deliver a planning campaign over little more than a month, with the clear objective of overcoming significant levels of opposition, finding and mobilising supporters, and providing the local District Council’s Planning Committee with a compelling case for granting permission for a solar farm in the heart of Oxfordshire’s rolling countryside.

Objections to the scheme had already been submitted by local residents, neighbouring farms, and the influential local branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). The well-organised opposition campaign had helped convince the Council’s Planning Officers to recommend that the application be refused.

In response, PLMR implemented a three-pronged strategy to counter the objectors, and actively promote the benefits of the proposed solar farm: addressing objectors concerns, identifying influential supporters and engaging with decision makers.

Following a comprehensive outreach campaign to key stakeholders, which resulted in a number of supportive letters being written, and having identified a local Canon as a powerful supporter, PLMR co-drafted a speech to be delivered at the Planning Committee hearing, and engaged with Committee Members through informative briefing packs and personalised letters.

Following the Canon’s powerful speech, Ward Councillor’s cited the arguments in favour of development included within PLMR’s briefing materials and, following a short debate, the Committee resolved unanimously to grant planning permission for Earthworm Energy’s proposed solar farm – going against the Planning Officer’s recommendation and the general local mood only a few weeks prior.

The client was delighted with the result, having already resigned themselves to potentially writing off a very significant investment of time, money and resources. Instead, they are now looking forward to the construction of the new solar project, which will provide a source of clean and secure energy to thousands of homes in the area whilst securing the future of a local family farm.

To find out how PLMR can help you secure planning permission for your project, please call David Madden or Rebecca Wakefield on 0207 622 9529 or email david.madden@plmr.co.uk or rebecca.wakefield@plmr.co.uk.

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