Allister Calls for Local Public Inquiry into Kells Solar Farm Proposal

Admin —  August 4, 2015

Statement by Jim Allister MLA:

“The application which has now been made by Elgin Energy for a unprecedented massive solar farm in Kells has led to a lot of unease to be expressed by residents via the KellsVocal group.

“Over the last number of months I have sought definitive answers from the Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, that PPS 18 was never designed to contend with such application of such scale which effectively leaves it unfit to determine this application. The Minister needs to act now to gain public confidence that the right decisions are being taken.

“This application seeks to impose solar panels across 250 acres of farmland, impacting on the rural setting that residents are accustomed to. I am also greatly concerned about the disigenous suggestions of job creation – yes, jobs would be created in the construction, but they would not be sustained throughout the life time of the solar farm – only minimal jobs would be sustained.

“I have now put it directly to the Minister responsible that there is an absolute need for a Public Inquiry under his powers. Not only is this application divisive, but a decision without proper scrutiny can set a precedent that could have a long lasting impact across Northern Ireland.”

Note to Editor:

Mr Allister’s Representation to DOE / Planning Department:

4th August 2015

Dear Minister,

Re: Planning Ref: LA03/2015/0234/F;  Kells Solar Farm application

I write both as a local elected representative and as a local resident to register my opposition to this application.

By any standard this is a massive application, seeking to amass and impose solar panels across 250 acres of active farmland. Applications of such scale might be acceptable on something like a disused airfield, but not at this farming location.

The transformative impact of this proposal in this rural setting would be wholly disproportionate and adverse to the rural and residential ambience of the area. The prevailing rural character would be destroyed and the amenity devastated. Presently, dwellings nestle at ease with their environment within this undulating farmland, but what is proposed would import an incongruous land use, destructive of both visual, environmental and residential amenity.

It is clear to me that the driver for this proposal is not the suitability of the land, but its proximity to the Kells Sub-station. I also note the disingenuous pretence that job creation would result. The reality of a solar farm is that it does not sustain jobs, given that in the post-construction phase it operates with minimal attention. Thus, there can be no valid support for this application on the basis of economic/employment gain.

Given the gross inadequacy of the prevailing planning policy guidance for proposals of this magnitude – PPS 18 was never designed to cope with such proposals – and the quality of the objections, I firmly believe the proposal should be subjected to a local public inquiry and that prematurity would be an additional and appropriate ground for refusal.

Moreover, I fear the consequences of approval not just for this site but in terms of precedent.

I trust, therefore, that this proposal will be rejected.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Allister MLA

Letter dated 20th July seeking Public Inquiry:

Mark H Durkan MLA

Department of Environment Minister

20 July 2015

Dear Minister,

Re: Solar farm application, Kells LA03/2015/0234/F

I write to urge you to exercise your powers under Art 31 of the Planning Order to ensure that a public inquiry is called on this extensive application.

You will be aware of the considerable public unease. Such, I suggest, can only be adequately addressed through an Art 31 inquiry.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Allister MLA

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