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Dartmouth Solar farm decision defended by council

SOUTH Hams Council has defended its decision to give the go-ahead for a solar park on the outskirts of Dartmouth behind closed doors.
Approval for the 70 solar arrays on 19 acres at Yonder Parks, alongside the A3122 near the Sportsmans Arms at Hemborough Post, was agreed under delegated powers.
A group of local residents have likened the site, with a steel security fence and CCTV cameras, to a prison camp and believe the development will ‘change the landscape and area in an irreversibly negative way’.
They are angry that the energy scheme proposal did not get an airing before the district’s development management committee.
But South Hams Council has said it is not the scale or nature of development that decides how an application is determined.
Both Cornworthy Parish Council and Blackawton Parish Council supported the scheme.
Stoke Fleming Parish Council said it had no real objection in principal but was concerned about the high visibility of the site from the surrounding area and the impact on nearby properties. Dittisham Parish Council objected on grounds it would adversely impact views of the landscape and some 42 letters of opposition were sent to the district planning authority.
Saima Ahmad, of Stone House Farm, said the views of local residents had ‘been ignored’.
‘It has now been approved – such a big solar farm but it did not go to the South Hams planning committee,’ she said.
‘We pointed out that allowing CCTV and having it so close was against our human rights to having privacy in our own dwellings.
‘Residents will be on camera going into and out of their homes, they will know when we are in and people drinking at the Sportmans in the garden will also be captured, as well as children. We pointed this all out but the council does not care.’
The solar farm is just one of many in the pipeline in the South Hams and the approval comes amid calls for a land strategy to prevent prime farmland being lost to solar panels at a time when food production needs to increase.
South Hams Council said the project, which was recommended for conditional approval by the case officer, was dealt with under an agreed system of delegation.
In addition, an offer by council leader John Tucker to meet beforehand with one objector was not taken up.
The council said it had ‘an agreed scheme of delegation and the decision was made in full compliance with that scheme’.
A spokesman added: ‘It is not the scale or nature of development that determines how an application is determined.
‘Where a proposal is contentious, as in this case, the decision to delegate approval has to be made in consultation with the ward member and chairman of development management committee.
‘The decision was taken by members, in consultation with officers, having full knowledge of the officer report, the objections that had been raised and the recommendation.’
Objectors say some people will be living less than 12 metres away from the development but the officer’s report says the distance is more like 100 metres.
In a written decision, the council said the proposal would have ‘considerable benefit in being a form of development that would be able to generate substantial levels of electricity in a sustainable manner without significant detriment to the landscape or amenities enjoyed by local residents or the wider community including recreational users.’
The council concluded: ‘The benefits of this proposal are considered to outweigh the concerns that have been expressed by third parties.’
Cllr Robert Vint, a Green Party councillor from Totnes, who sits on the development management committee, said there was not enough time to discuss all applications at a public committee meeting.

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