Planning, Design and Access Statement - Sandon Brook Solar Farm Low Carbon February 2021 - Amazon AWS

 
Planning, Design and Access Statement - Sandon Brook Solar Farm Low Carbon February 2021 - Amazon AWS
Planning, Design and
Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

Low Carbon

February 2021
Planning, Design and Access Statement - Sandon Brook Solar Farm Low Carbon February 2021 - Amazon AWS
Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

Quality information
Prepared by                        Checked by              Verified by                       Approved by

Jessica Cooke                      Jonny Hill              Tom Smith                         Jonny Hill,
Graduate Planner                   Associate, Planning     Director, Planning                Associate Planning

Revision History
Revision               Revision date            Details   Authorized            Name                Position

0.1                    02/02/21                 Draft     JH                    Jonny Hill          Associate,
                                                                                                    Planning

0.2                    03/02/21                 Draft     JH                    Jonny Hill          Associate,
                                                                                                    Planning

0.3                    08/02/21                 Draft     JH                    Jonny Hill          Associate,
                                                                                                    Planning

0.4                    08/02/21                 Draft     JH                    Jonny Hill          Associate,
                                                                                                    Planning

1                      19/02/21                 Final     JH                    Jonny Hill          Associate,
                                                                                                    Planning

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Planning, Design and Access Statement - Sandon Brook Solar Farm Low Carbon February 2021 - Amazon AWS
Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

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Prepared by:
Jessica Cooke
Graduate Planner

AECOM Limited
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2 Leman Street
London E1 8FA
United Kingdom
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© 2021 AECOM Limited. All Rights Reserved.

This document has been prepared by AECOM Limited (“AECOM”) for sole use of our client (the “Client”) in
accordance with generally accepted consultancy principles, the budget for fees and the terms of reference
agreed between AECOM and the Client. Any information provided by third parties and referred to herein has not
been checked or verified by AECOM, unless otherwise expressly stated in the document. No third party may rely
upon this document without the prior and express written agreement of AECOM.

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Planning, Design and Access Statement - Sandon Brook Solar Farm Low Carbon February 2021 - Amazon AWS
Planning, Design and Access Statement
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Table of Contents
1.           Introduction ...................................................................................................... 7
Background and Context......................................................................................................................................... 7
Pre-application Consultation ................................................................................................................................... 8
Environmental Impact Assessment ......................................................................................................................... 8
Planning Application Submission Documents ......................................................................................................... 8
Report Structure ...................................................................................................................................................... 9
2.           Site and Surroundings ....................................................................................11
3.           Planning History ............................................................................................ 14
4.           The Proposed Development .......................................................................... 16
Solar Panels .......................................................................................................................................................... 18
Inverters ................................................................................................................................................................ 18
Substation Compound........................................................................................................................................... 19
Cabling and Grid Connection ................................................................................................................................ 19
Security ................................................................................................................................................................. 20
Construction .......................................................................................................................................................... 21
Operation .............................................................................................................................................................. 21
Decommissioning .................................................................................................................................................. 22
5.           Site Selection................................................................................................. 23
Grid Capacity and Connection .............................................................................................................................. 23
Land Availability and Constraints .......................................................................................................................... 23
6.           Design ........................................................................................................... 25
Design Approach ................................................................................................................................................... 25
Design Evolution ................................................................................................................................................... 25
Design through Consultation ................................................................................................................................. 26
Use........................................................................................................................................................................ 26
Layout ................................................................................................................................................................... 26
Design Flexibility ................................................................................................................................................... 27
Scale ..................................................................................................................................................................... 27
Noise ..................................................................................................................................................................... 28
Appearance ........................................................................................................................................................... 28
Access .................................................................................................................................................................. 28
Landscaping and Biodiversity ............................................................................................................................... 29
7.           Planning Policy .............................................................................................. 30
The Development Plan.......................................................................................................................................... 30
Material Planning Considerations.......................................................................................................................... 32
Energy Legislation and Policy Framework ............................................................................................................ 33
8.           Planning Assessment .................................................................................... 35
Principle of Development ...................................................................................................................................... 35
Agricultural Land ................................................................................................................................................... 35
Green Belt ............................................................................................................................................................. 35
Landscape and Visual .......................................................................................................................................... 38
Access, Traffic and Transport ................................................................................................................................ 39
Cultural Heritage ................................................................................................................................................... 40
Natural Environment ............................................................................................................................................. 41
Flood Risk and Drainage....................................................................................................................................... 42
9.           Conclusions and Planning Balance ............................................................... 43

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Planning, Design and Access Statement - Sandon Brook Solar Farm Low Carbon February 2021 - Amazon AWS
Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

Figures
Figure 2-1 Sandon Brook Site Location Plan ........................................................................................................ 13
Figure 4-1 Sandon Brook Indicative Site Layout ................................................................................................... 17
Figure 4-2 Example row of solar panels ................................................................................................................ 18
Figure 4-3 Example cabin ..................................................................................................................................... 19
Figure 4-4 Example substation compound ............................................................................................................ 19
Figure 4-5 Example POC mast (on the left) .......................................................................................................... 20
Figure 4-6 Example fencing and CCTV camera .................................................................................................... 21
Figure 5-1 Sandon Brook Search Area and Constraints ....................................................................................... 24

Tables
Table 1-1 Application Documents List ..................................................................................................................... 8
Table 1-2 Application Drawing Schedule ................................................................................................................. 9

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Planning, Design and Access Statement - Sandon Brook Solar Farm Low Carbon February 2021 - Amazon AWS
Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

Abbreviations
AC                            Alternating Current
CCC                           Chelmsford City Counil
CIL                           Community Infrastrucxture Levy
CLP                           Chelmsford Local Plan
DC                            Direct Current
DNO                           Development Network Operator
EIA                           Environmental Impact Assessment
FRA                           Flood Risk Assessment
ha                            Hectares
HDD                           Horizonal Directional Drilling
HVAC                          Heating, Venting and Cooling
km                            Kilometre
LVIA                          Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment
m                             Metre
MW                            Megawatts
NPPF                          National Planning Policy Framework
NPS                           National Policy Statements
NSIP                          Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects
PDAS                          Planning, Design and Access Statement
POC                           Point of Connection
PV                            Photovoltaic

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Planning, Design and Access Statement - Sandon Brook Solar Farm Low Carbon February 2021 - Amazon AWS
Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

      1. Introduction
1.1     This Planning Design and Access Statement has been prepared in support of an
        application for full planning permission submitted to Chelmsford City Council (the
        ‘Council’) under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended)
        on behalf Low Carbon Solar Park 5 Limited (the ‘Applicant’), which is a special purpose
        vehicle (‘SPV’) owned by Low Carbon UK Solar Investment Company Limited (‘Low
        Carbon’).
1.2     The proposal comprises the construction and operation of a solar photovoltaic (‘PV’)
        farm, battery storage facility and associated infrastructure. The proposal is referred to
        collectively as the ‘Proposed Development’ and the project is known as ‘Sandon Brook
        Solar Farm’.
1.3     The proposed Site (hereafter referred to as the ‘Site’) measures approximately 86.75
        hectares (‘ha’) and comprises agricultural land near Church Road, West Hanningfield,
        Chelmsford, CM2 8UJ.

Background and Context

1.4     The UK Government has committed to meeting a legally binding target of net-zero
        carbon emissions by 2050. This requires major investment in proven technologies, such
        as solar and battery storage, which are supported by planning policy at local and national
        level.
1.5     Low Carbon’s goal is to help with the shift to a genuinely low carbon future with
        environmental stewardship and collaboration with local communities at the heart of its
        approach. It is committed to making a positive and significant impact on the causes of
        climate change and to achieving biodiversity net gain and environmental improvements.
1.6     Low Carbon is a British-owned investment and asset management company. It has
        successfully developed over 322 megawatts (MW) of UK Solar projects and currently
        manages in excess of 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy assets across more than
        100 sites in the UK, with the potential to power almost 660,000 homes with clean energy
        and save in excess of 440,00 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
1.7     Low Carbon is proud to be a Certified B Corporation™. As a B Corporation, it is part of
        a community of more than 250 businesses in the UK that uses the power of business to
        build a more inclusive and sustainable economy, with each member meeting the highest
        verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and
        accountability.
1.8     Chelmsford City Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency in July 2019,
        this declaration represents a commitment to take appropriate action to make the
        Council’s activities net-zero carbon by 2030. The Council committed to achieving 100%
        low carbon energy across the Council’s full range of functions by 2030. The Council
        published an initial action plan in January 2020 on how they plan to tackle it.
1.9     However, even given this commitment, there is only one operational renewable energy
        facility (with a capacity of over 150 KW) within the Chelmsford City authority area and
        there has been no new renewable energy projects permitted since 1995 as of
        September 2020 1. The Proposed Development would therefore make a positive

1
 As shown in the Renewable Energy Planning Database (REPD) September 2020. Available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/renewable-energy-planning-database-monthly-extract

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        contribution to reducing carbon emissions and help the Council contribute to sources of
        renewable energy.

Pre-application Consultation

1.10 The Applicant has carried out a comprehensive and meaningful pre-application
     consultation exercise in respect of the Proposed Development, primarily focused on the
     local community, but also including consultation with the Council and other key
     consultees.
1.11 A total of 74 comments were received during the consultation. 90% of respondents
     either strongly agreed or agreed that climate change is an issue which should be
     addressed; while solar PV (ground mounted) was the most favourable technology choice
     to generate electricity. The preferred initiative as part of the proposal was for new habitat
     for wildlife.
1.12 Overall, the summary confirms that 39% of responses were positive or mostly positive,
     with a further 15% of responses being neutral. 46% of overall responses were negative
     or mostly negative. The majority of comments received were in relation to local ecology
     and bird life, visual impact, traffic and construction and archaeology and local heritage.
1.13 The comments received as a result of the consultation, alongside further site
     investigations, have helped to shape the application and supporting information in
     response to local views. The detailed design evolution, including the amendment to the
     proposal as a result of the consultation are set out in Section 6.
1.14 For further information, please refer to the Statement of Community Involvement that is
     submitted as part of this application.

Environmental Impact Assessment

1.15 An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Screening Request was submitted on the
     5th September 2020, and Chelmsford City Council issued a Screening Opinion in
     October 2020. The Screening Opinion considers that the proposal would not have
     significant environmental impacts, and that any impacts would be more localised to the
     Site. As a result, the Local Planning Authority confirmed that an EIA is not required.

Planning Application Submission Documents

1.16 The planning application comprises the following documents:
Table 1-1 Application Documents List

Document title                                     Document Status

Completed planning application form and relevant   For Approval
notices
Completed Ownership Certificates
CIL Form                                           For Approval
Application Cover Letter                           Supporting Document
Planning, Design and Access Statement              Supporting Document
Statement of Community Involvement                 Supporting Document
Cultural Heritage Assessment                       Supporting Document
Ecological Assessment                              Supporting Document
Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment             Supporting Document
Agricultural Land Classification Assessment        Supporting Document

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Document title                                                        Document Status

Flood Risk Assessment and Drainage Strategy                           Supporting Document
Transport Statement                                                   Supporting Document
Arboricultural Impact Assessment                                      Supporting Document
Glint and Glare Study                                                 Supporting Document

1.17 Below is a schedule of application drawings that form part of the planning application:
Table 1-2 Application Drawing Schedule

Drawing No.                                     Title                                   Status
LCS039-SP-01_rev02                              Site Location Plan                      For Approval
LCS039-PLE-01_rev12                             Indicative Site Layout Plan             For Approval
LCS039-DZ-01_rev10                              Zoning Layout Plan                      For Approval
SD-11                                           Panel Cross Section                     For Approval
SD-23_rev01                                     Point of Connection Mast                For Approval
                                                Compound Plans/Elevations
SD-21_rev01                                     Battery Container Plans/Elevations      For Approval
LCS-SD-01_rev02                                 DNO Substation Elevations and           For Approval
                                                Dimensions Plan
LCS-SD-02_rev02                                 Customer Substation Elevations          For Approval
                                                and Dimensions Plan
LCS-SD-03_rev01                                 CCTV and Light Post Detail              For Approval
LCS-SD-04_rev1                                  Stock Fence and CCTV Elevation          For Approval
LCS-SD-08_rev02                                 Inverter Elevations and Dimensions For Approval
                                                Plan
LCS-SD-14_rev01                                 DNO Substation Floor Plan               For Approval
LCS-SD-15_rev01                                 Customer Substation Floor Plan          For Approval
LCS-SD-16_rev01                                 Inverter Floor Plan                     For Approval
SD-25_rev01                                     Meter Kiosk                             For Approval

Report Structure

1.18 This Planning, Design and Access Statement is structured as follows:

        •    Section 2 describes the application Site and surrounding context.;

        •    Section 3 summarises relevant planning history;

        •    Section 4 sets out a detailed description of the Proposed Development;

        •    Section 5 outlines the Site selection process;

        •    Section 6 describes the design evolution process;

        •    Section 7 provides a summary of the relevant planning policy;

        •    Section 8 considers the planning merits of the proposals having regard to planning
             policy and other guidance; and

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        •    Section 9 sets out the summary and conclusions of this Statement.

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      2. Site and Surroundings
2.1     The Site is 86.75 ha and comprises agricultural land near Church Road, West
        Hanningfield, Chelmsford, CM2 8UJ. It is located approximately 2 kilometres (km) to
        the south east of the village of West Hanningfield, approximately 3 km south west of
        East Hanningfield and approximately 1.2 km north of South Hanningfield.
2.2     Beyond the immediate context, Chelmsford is located approximately 8 km north of the
        Site and Basildon approximately 10 km south.
2.3     The Site is split into four parcels of land, the majority of the land is to the west of the
        A130 comprising a patchwork of fields and a single small field the east of the A130.
2.4     The eastern Site is bounded by mature trees and hedgerows. The western Site is more
        open, particularly its boundary with the A130; however, long distance views are broken
        up by frequent banks of woodland and boundary hedges. The A130 sits below the Site,
        thus eradicating any significant views for road users.
2.5     The Site lies within a predominately agricultural landscape, with a mixture of arable and
        pastural uses and is bordered by areas of agricultural land to the north, east and south
        with Hanningfield Reservoir and associated treatment works to the west.
2.6     Residential receptors are confined to isolated farmhouses and a small collection of
        houses, located approximately 200 metres (m) south east from the Site boundary. There
        is a small light industrial site, Moorland Industrial Estate, approximately 400 m south of
        the Site.
2.7     The Site comprises mostly Grade 3b moderate quality agricultural land with a small
        section of Grade 3a good quality agricultural land on the eastern parcel of land. As a
        while the Site is farmed as a unit of Grade 3b land and is classed as such for the
        purposes of this planning application.
2.8     The Site is not situated within or near a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
        (AONB). The Site is located within the Metropolitan Green Belt Area. The Green Belt in
        Chelmsford covers almost 34% of the land to the south and west of the administrative
        area.
2.9     The Site is located within the proposed Chelmsford North East Bypass Safeguarded
        Area, a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone and a Wild Bird General Licence Exclusion Zone. The
        Hanningfield Reservoir Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is located approximately
        500 m west of the Site boundary. The closest European Designated site is Crouch &
        Roach Estuary Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) located 5 km south east of the Site.
2.10 The Site is wholly located within Flood Zone 1. There is an ordinary watercourse that
     runs through the Site.
2.11 There are a number of Public Right of Way (PROW) running across the Site (PROW
     218_12, PROW 236_36 and PROW 218_15), as well as network of public footpaths
     beyond the confines of the Site boundary, with multiple footpaths existing within the
     Site’s immediate context.
2.12 Due to the existing layout of the Site and the physical boundaries between land parcels,
     three primary points of access are proposed to the Site, in conjunction with a secondary
     access to the northern land parcel, a secondary access to the south-western land parcel,
     and another access to facilitate the Point of Connection (POC). The proposed primary
     site access will be provided from Canon Barns Road with secondary (backup) access
     proposed from Church Road.

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2.13 There are no statutory listed heritage assets within the Site boundary. However, there
     are a number of Grade II and Grade II* Listed structures adjacent to the Site boundaries,
     including Grade II* Listed Church of St Peter and Grade II* Listed Church of St Mary
     and St Edward. There is one Scheduled Monument within the local area, ‘Chitham’s
     Farm moated site’, located approximately 0.8 km from the Site. There are no World
     Heritage Sites situated within the parcel of land or its surrounds and the nearest
     Conservation Area is at Stock, approximately 4.5 km from the Site boundary.
2.14 The Sandon Brook Site Location Plan (Reference: LCS039-SP-01_rev02) is shown in
     Figure 2-1 below.

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Figure 2-1 Sandon Brook Site Location Plan

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      3. Planning History
3.1     Given the agricultural use of the Site there is no recent or relevant planning history within
        the Site boundary.
3.2     There are, however, a number of ground mounted solar farms either proposed or
        operational, located surrounding area, including sites located in the Green Belt, as
        follows:

        •    An EIA Screening Opinion (ref.20/01450/EIASO), located adjacent to the eastern
             parcel of the Sandon Brook Site, was submitted to Chelmsford City Council for solar
             arrays at Land East of A130 South Of Canon Barns Road East Hanningfield
             Chelmsford Essex, that would generate 9.2 MW of renewable energy, with the
             majority of this supplying Hanningfield Water Treatment Works. A decision was
             issued on the 29/10/2020 that it does not constitute EIA development.

        •    An EIA Screening Opinion (ref.20/01501/EIASO), located approximately 1.5 km
             north west of the Sandon Brook Site, was submitted to Chelmsford City Council for
             solar arrays, at Land West of Hill Farm Pan Lane East Hanningfield Chelmsford
             Essex. A decision was issued on the 10/12/2020 that it does not constitute EIA
             development.

        •    A planning application (Ref 21/00081/FUL), located approximately 5.6 km north west
             of the Sandon Brook Site, was submitted to Chelmsford City Council for a solar farm,
             at Land East of St Cleres Hall Pit Main Road Danbury Chelmsford, which would
             generate 22.5 MW of renewable energy. A decision was issued on 18/09/2020 that it
             does not constitute EIA development, the full planning application is currently being
             determined.

        •    Planning Application Ref.14/00948/FULL for the Outwood Solar Farm, located
             approximately 7 km south west of the Sandon Brook site. This scheme was approved
             by Basildon Borough Council in August 2014, and has since been constructed. This
             site is also located in the Metropolitan Green Belt. The decision notice attached a
             number of conditions to the site to minimise the impact and retain the openness of
             the Green Belt mostly referring to fencing.
3.3     It is notable in the application provided above (Ref.14/00948/FULL for the Outwood
        Solar Farm), that the Officer considered the conditions applied to the development to be
        adequate in reducing harm to the Green Belt as well as meeting the very special
        circumstances.
3.4     This approach constitutes a balancing exercise of weighing the harm to the Green Belt,
        as well as other identified harm, against the benefits of the scheme.
3.5     This approach has been repeated in a number of other applications and appeal
        decisions for solar farms located in the Green Belt throughout the country. Of particular
        relevance is Planning Appeal Ref. APP/C1950/W/19/3225810 in Hertfordshire in which
        the Inspector stated:

        •    The harm to the character and appearance is outweighed by the fact that it is a
             temporary and reversible development;

        •    The scheme would make a valuable contribution to cutting greenhouse gas
             emissions which provides wider environmental benefits through the increased
             production of energy from renewable resources; and

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        •    The location of the array within a hollow, together with the proposed landscaping,
             results in the location where the impacts can be made acceptable.
3.6     The appeal concluded that ”the environmental benefits of the proposal and the fact that
        the impacts can be made acceptable, are sufficient to outweigh the harm to the Green
        Belt. Consequently, the very special circumstances necessary to justify the proposal do
        exist”.

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      4. The Proposed Development
4.1     The Proposed Development responds to the Government’s support for solar energy by
        providing a renewable energy supply that would reduce carbon emissions and assist in
        establishing a greater diversity of energy sources in the UK.
4.2     The Proposed Development would consist of ground-mounted solar PV panels and
        associated infrastructure. The proposal includes the provision of on-site battery storage
        facilities to provide ancillary services to the operation of the proposed solar farm. The
        proposal consists of the construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of
        the solar farm. The solar panels would generate up to 49.9 MW, enough to power
        approximately 16,581 homes and an anticipated CO2 displacement of around 11,210
        tonnes per annum.
4.3     The electricity produced by this solar farm would be exported to the distribution network
        operator (maintained by UK Power Networks) via underground cables.
4.4     It would include the following equipment:

        •    Rows of solar PV panels;

        •    Battery Storage Facility;

        •    Approximately 20 inverters within containers;

        •    One Point of Connection (POC) mast of up to 35m in height;

        •    Distribution Network Operator (DNO) Substation, access and cable connection to
             POC mast to connect to 132 kV power line;

        •    Customer Substation/Switchgear and Meter Kiosk;

        •    Internal buried cabling;

        •    Internal access tracks;

        •    Security fence and security gate; and

        •    CCTV cameras.
4.5     This is considered the minimum level of development required to ensure the Site
        performs effectively in generating and storing electricity.
4.6     In addition to this essential infrastructure, there would be provision of planting and
        landscaping to assimilate the Proposed Development into the wider landscape.
4.7     The Indicative Site Layout Plan (Reference: LCS039-PLE-01_rev12) illustrates the
        proposed layout, shown in Figure 4-1 below.

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Figure 4-1 Sandon Brook Indicative Site Layout

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Solar Panels

4.8     The solar arrays would be set within the gently undulating landform with partial enclosure
        provided by the framework of hedgerows and small blocks of woodland or spinneys.
4.9     The panels would be laid out in straight arrays set at an angle of between 10 to 35
        degrees from east to west across the field enclosures. The distance between the arrays
        would typically be between 3-6 m. The top northern edges of the panels would be 2.8 m
        above ground level and the south lower edges of the panels would be no less than 0.9
        m above ground level. The arrays would be static.
4.10 The metal framework that houses the modules will be supported at intervals by either
     single or double mounted posts approximately 5 m apart, depending on the
     orientation/configuration of the panels. The posts will be driven into the ground at an
     approximate depth of 1.5 m. The cabling would be concealed in trenches.
4.11 Drawing SD-11 Panel Cross Section 26.5 Degree Tilt shows indicative dimensions of
     the panels and their frame, that forms part of this planning application.
Figure 4-2 Example row of solar panels

Inverters

4.12 The inverters would be contained within shipping containers or similar cabin type
     structures, each unit would measure 2.9 m high, 12.2 m long and 2.5 m wide. The
     inverters would convert the direct current generated by the solar panels into alternating
     current. An example of indicative elevations and dimensions of the inverter cabins and
     associated infrastructure are shown in the Inverter Elevations and Dimensions Plan
     (Reference: LCS-SD-08_rev02).
4.13 Transformers, as shown in drawing Reference LCS-SD-16_rev01, contained within the
     inverter cabins, convert the low voltage output from the inverters into high voltage
     suitable for feeding into the local electricity distribution network.
4.14 Inverters are located towards the centre of the development zones, shown in the Zoning
     Layout Plan (Reference: LCS039-DZ_rev10).

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Figure 4-3 Example cabin

Substation Compound

4.15 The connection into the local electricity distribution network would require a DNO
     substation. The DNO substation would measure 6 m long, 8 m wide and 4.1 m high.
4.16 Within this compound there would also be a Customer Substation measuring 3 m high,
     10 m long and 4 m wide, and just outside there would be a meter kiosk measuring 1.8
     m high, 2.1 m long and 0.8 m wide.
4.17 Indicative elevations and dimensions are shown in the DNO Substation Elevations and
     Dimensions Plan (Reference: LCS-SD-01_rev02), Customer Substation Elevations and
     Dimensions Plan (Reference: LCS-SD-02_rev02) and Meter Kiosk (Reference: SD-
     25_rev01).
Figure 4-4 Example substation compound

Cabling and Grid Connection

4.18 The intention for the Proposed Development is to connect to the 132Kv power line which
     runs north-south through the Site.
4.19 All cabling required for the Proposed Development would be located in buried trenches.
     To connect the eastern parcel, the cabling will be required to cross the A130. If it is not
     possible to utilise the bridge to connect this part of the Site, Horizonal Directional Drilling

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        (HDD) will be used to tunnel underneath the A130. This would not impact function of the
        road or ecology and trees.
4.20 The cabling would follow the existing road, Church Road, to a POC Mast of up to 35m
     in height located within a compound in the north east corner of the Site as shown on the
     Indicative Site Layout Plan (Reference: LCS039-PLE-01_rev11) and POC Mast
     Compound (Reference: SD-23_rev01).
Figure 4-5 Example POC mast (on the left)

Security

4.21 It is proposed that stock-proof fencing (mesh with wooden posts or similar) to a height
     of approximately 2 m would be installed along the outer edges of the Site in order to
     restrict access.
4.22 This would be sited a minimum of 4 m inside the outermost hedges/trees/vegetation,
     ensuring that the fence is visually obscured and access is available for hedge trimming
     and maintenance. Gates would be installed at the Site access point for maintenance
     access. These would be the same design, material and colour as the fencing.
4.23 The perimeter of the Site would be protected by a system of CCTV cameras, which
     would provide full 24-hour surveillance around the entire perimeter. An intelligent sensor

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Planning, Design and Access Statement
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        management system would manage the cameras. The cameras would be on poles of
        approximately 2.5 m high, spaced at approximately 50 m intervals along the security
        fence. There would be no lighting within the Site at night.
Figure 4-6 Example fencing and CCTV camera

Construction

4.24 Construction is expected to take place over approximately 16 weeks. During this period,
     initial site setup works would take place followed by construction of the internal access
     route(s), ground works, and the installation of the solar panels and other infrastructure.
4.25 Facilities would be provided on site for construction workers, including provision of a site
     office and welfare facilities (including toilets, changing and drying facilities, and a
     canteen). Fencing would be installed around the perimeter of the Site and temporary
     parking would be provided for the construction workers.
4.26 During the 16-week construction period, it is proposed that construction working hours
     would be as follows:

        •    08:00 – 18:00 Monday to Friday; and

        •    08:00 – 13:00 Saturday.
4.27 Should work be required to be undertaken outside of these times, this would be agreed
     in advance and in writing with the local planning authority.
4.28 At the end of each day, mobile plant would be returned to a secure overnight plant
     storage, where drip trays can be utilised under the various types of plant, if needed.

Operation

4.29 Once operational, occasional maintenance of the solar panels and other infrastructure
     would be required. The solar panels would need to be periodically cleaned, most likely
     using soap and water, to ensure the efficient running of the system.
4.30 It is expected that under normal circumstances no more than 4 two-way trips (either car
     or van) would visit the Site each week (i.e. generally less than 1 a day).

Prepared for: Low Carbon Solar Park 5 Limited                                             AECOM
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Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

4.31 It is intended that the Site would be retained in agricultural use for the life of the Proposed
     Development; land between and underneath the panels could be used for sheep grazing
     and planting a combination of grassland and meadows.

Decommissioning

4.32 At the end of the temporary operational lifespan (approximately 40 years), the solar
     panels and other infrastructure would be removed, and the Site restored back to full
     agricultural use. The small quantity of foundations, hard surfacing and heavy
     infrastructure mean, in combination with retaining most of the Site as grassland, that the
     land would be easier to restore than other more intrusive development, e.g. large
     buildings requiring significant foundations.
4.33 The restoration process is intended to ensure that the land is restored to the same quality
     as it was previously, and it is envisaged this would be secured through a suitable
     condition attached to any planning permission.

Prepared for: Low Carbon Solar Park 5 Limited                                                AECOM
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Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

      5. Site Selection
5.1     An iterative site selection process was undertaken to ensure the proposed Site
        represents the most suitable and deliverable land to deliver the Proposed Development.
5.2     This process is described below and demonstrates that the Applicant has given due
        consideration to the benefits and constraints associated with the proposed Site, when
        compared and considered with potential alternative sites. This Section outlines the
        rationale for choosing the proposed Site and, in doing so, highlights that there are no
        clearly more suitable deliverable alternative sites.
5.3     The Site was carefully selected through the development process ensuring it met with
        Low Carbon’s criteria, including a viable grid connection nearby with the capability of
        importing and exporting the power generated, being a site which compares favourably
        in terms of planning designations and a willing landowner.

Grid Capacity and Connection

5.4     The first consideration of the site selection process is electricity grid availability and a
        viable connection. In this area UKPN confirmed there is capacity in the 132kV overhead
        line.
5.5     A high-level assessment of connection costs against possible output determined that
        connection up to 3 km from the Point of Connection (POC) would likely be feasible. Sites
        in closer proximity to the POC are likely to be more feasible but this will be dependent
        upon a range of factors including the output of the solar farm, connection costs, and the
        route to the POC having regard to obstacles (e.g. roads, railway lines and rivers) and
        any third party land agreements.
5.6     The 132kV overhead line currently runs through the Site, however the tie in can only be
        made at certain pylons called tension towers which have the necessary loop in the lines
        around the insulators to connect into.

Land Availability and Constraints

5.7     Once the POC was confirmed, landownership and a high level review of planning
        constraints including, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific
        Interest, ALC Grading, Green Belt and flood zones were considered. The constraints
        identified within a 3 km radius of the Site are shown in Figure 5-1.
5.8     Key considerations in this location are the Green Belt and agricultural land classification;
        a large proportion of the search area is within the Green Belt and the whole of the search
        area is classed as Grade 3 (undifferentiated) agricultural land.
5.9     The Agricultural Land Classification Assessment highlights that the proposed Site is
        characterised primarily as Grade 3b land with small areas of Grade 3a on the eastern
        section of the Site. However, given the nature of the small isolated patches of Grade 3a
        land, the Site as a whole is farmed as Grade 3b land. This therefore indicates there is
        no land within the search area that is significantly worse in agricultural quality (i.e., Grade
        4 or 5). In addition, there was no available previously developed land within the search
        area of sufficient size.
5.10 Landownership information is key to understanding the fragmentation of the area,
     without which land would be split up arbitrarily, disregarding potential land availability
     and deliverability issues. Therefore, Low Carbon consulted their landowner database
     and first sent out correspondence to landowners outside the Green Belt to ascertain
     interest in leasing their land to Low Carbon to develop a solar farm. However, none of
     these landowners indicated any interest.

Prepared for: Low Carbon Solar Park 5 Limited                                                   AECOM
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Planning, Design and Access Statement
      Sandon Brook Solar Farm

      5.11 Land within the search area and outside the Green Belt where landowner information
           was not available was dismissed, due to inadequate surface area without significant
           obstacles, as well as a large proportion of the land covered by a recent screening opinion
           for a solar farm of 68 ha (Planning Application Ref. 20/01501/EIASO).
      5.12 Low Carbon therefore sent out correspondence to landowners within the Green Belt, at
           which point the landowner of the proposed Site expressed interest.
      5.13 Low Carbon, conscious that the Site is within the Green Belt, looked at other physical
           properties and planning considerations. As such the proposed Site is largely bounded
           by the A130 to the east and Hanningfield Reservoir to the west, as well as commercial
           buildings to the south. This reduces potential landscape impact as well as the number
           of visual receptors that would be impacted by the development of the Site. This is
           opposed to the land farther north which is characterised by more open fields, dispersed
           farmsteads and dwellings which would likely increase the visibility and landscape
           impacts of the Proposed Development.
      5.14 The whole Site is within Flood Zone 1 and does not contain any other environmental
           designations than those already aforementioned; while the size of the Site is larger than
           that is required to produce 49.9 MW of renewable energy allowing space for
           environmental and biodiversity improvements such as planting and potential bee hives.
      5.15 This process demonstrates that a rational and logical approach was taken to site
           selection, having appropriate regard to practical, planning and environmental
           considerations. It also demonstrates the absence of significantly more appropriate
           alternatives for the Proposed Development.
Figure 5-1 Sandon Brook Search Area and Constraints

      Prepared for: Low Carbon Solar Park 5 Limited                                           AECOM
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Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

      6. Design
Design Approach

6.1     The design of the Proposed Development has been informed by the context of the Site
        and its surroundings, as well as the opportunities and constraints presented by the Site.
6.2     The immediate and wider context within which the Site sits is formed mainly by
        agricultural land; however, there is a presence of built development in the area, notably
        the villages of West Hanningfield to the north west and South Hanningfield to the south
        west, as well as Hanningfield Reservoir and its associated treatment works. Residential
        receptors are confined to isolated farmhouses and a small collection of houses located
        to the east of the Site. The Site, and surrounding land, is mostly flat which prevents far
        reaching views.
6.3     Key elements in securing the design of the Proposed Development include:

        •    Minimising the environmental impact by preserving as far as possible trees and
             hedgerows, maintaining suitable stand-offs from sensitive ecological features;

        •    Seeking opportunities for the management and enhancement of biodiversity, such
             as planting of wildflower meadows and the introduction of beehives;

        •    Providing a functional design that makes the best use of location and provides for
             efficient generation of electricity, namely by orientating the panels south to benefit
             from maximum solar irradiation;

        •    Assimilating the Proposed Development into the local landscape as far as possible,
             including providing additional screening;

        •    Ensuring safe and efficient access to the public highway;

        •    Retaining Public Rights of Way; and

        •    Ensuring the approach to design is inclusive.
6.4     All infrastructure required for the Proposed Development has been situated in such a
        way as to avoid environmentally sensitive areas, and mitigation has been included to
        reduce other impacts. For example, the POC mast is located in close proximity to the
        existing pylon, this reduces the visual impact and the inverters have been placed
        towards the centre of the Site to eliminate any potential for noise impact on local
        receptors.
6.5     The approach taken to the design of the Proposed Development is considered
        appropriate given its context and purpose - to generate and export electricity to the local
        grid network.

Design Evolution

6.6     The design process for the Proposed Development has been iterative, a number of
        design options have been considered and revised to take advantage of the opportunities
        of the Site and mitigate for the constraints.
6.7     The main changes to the Proposed Development, in terms of design, include the
        following:

        •      Removal of accesses that cross waterbodies, to reduce impact on species and
               need for mitigation;

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Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

        •      Additional planting of vegetation around the substation to reduce the visual impact
               from the adjacent PRoW;
        •      Additional planting and screening have been introduced as a result of the
               Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment and Glint and Glare Study;
        •      Swales have been added as a result of the Drainage Strategy;
        •      The inclusion of HDD to facilitate cables crossing the A130, in case it is not
               possible to put the cable across the bridge; and
        •      Buffers have been added to trees and badger sets.
Design through Consultation

6.8     The views expressed by consultees have been taken into consideration, given the
        general positive feedback and reassurance that many of the residents had already been
        considered and included in the key elements of the initial design process and evolution.
        A significant change to the design of the Proposed Development was the relocation of
        the primary site access away from Church Road, to help reduce the impact of traffic and
        large vehicles on Church Road. Details of the consultation process are provided within
        the Statement of Community Involvement.

Use

6.9      The Site currently comprises agricultural land within a predominantly rural setting.
6.10 It is intended that the Site would retain its agricultural use whilst the Proposed
     Development is operational, this could be through sheep grazing. At the end of the
     lifetime of the Proposed Development, it is envisaged that all infrastructure associated
     with the Proposed Development would be removed and the land would be return to its
     previous state.
6.11 The Site has been designed to be sympathetic to its agricultural surroundings, whilst
     being practical in terms of technical and engineering considerations. It is therefore
     considered that, on balance, the proposed use is compatible with the surrounding area.

Layout

6.12 The infrastructure necessary for the Proposed Development would be set within the
     existing field pattern, with all field margins and boundary vegetation retained. The
     security fencing around the Site would be situated inside the boundary vegetation
     ensuring the fencing is not outwardly visible and the hedge can still be accessed for
     maintenance.
6.13 The solar arrays would be laid out horizontally, south facing as to maximise the
     absorption of sunlight. The inverters and accompanying batteries would be located in
     the centre of the solar panels in each development zone to reduce visual and noise
     impacts on surrounding receptors.
6.14 The substation compound would be located at the north west of the Site in development
     zone 2 (as shown in drawing Reference: LCS039-dz-0_rev10), close to the access road
     to allow for ease of movement once operational and effective screening.
6.15 The initial design was assessed by technical specialists with regard to agricultural land
     classification, cultural heritage, flooding, ecology, LVIA, glint and glare, topography,
     transport and trees. Each specialist visited the Site and carried out appropriate surveys
     to identify the opportunities and constraints of the Site; plans were produced showing
     these issues which guided the subsequent iterations of the design layout of the Site.

Prepared for: Low Carbon Solar Park 5 Limited                                                   AECOM
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Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

6.16 This iterative design process helped ensure that the Proposed Development has as little
     impact on the environment as possible. In addition, the incorporation of environmental
     mitigation measures, such as planting, protection and appropriate stand offs from
     sensitive features were central in the preparation of the layout.
6.17 The Indicative Site Layout Plan (Reference: LCS039-PLE-01_rev11), as shown in Figure
     4-1, that forms part of this planning application submission shows the proposed layout.

Design Flexibility

6.18 At this stage it is important to retain design flexibility within the application; therefore, in
     order to ensure a robust assessment of the impacts of the Proposed Development, the
     assessments that form part of this application have been undertaken using the Rochdale
     Envelope approach.
6.19 This approach involves using the maximum parameters for elements of the of the
     Proposed Development where flexibility is required. As such, in the LVIA the POC mast
     has been assessed at a height 35 m which is seen as a worst case scenario. Whereas
     in practice, the POC mast may be a slightly lower height. Similarly, the solar panels
     have been assessed at a maximum height of 2.8 m.
6.20 The Rochdale Envelope approach also involved defining development zones, rather
     than having a definite layout. The development zones are shown in the Zoning Layout
     Plan (Reference: LCS039-DZ_rev10). This zoning allows for future optimisation of the
     solar farm following any grant of planning permission.
6.21 The zones define where certain infrastructure should be located within the Site, whilst
     having flexibility in terms of layout within each zone. Infrastructure permitted within each
     development zone is as follows;

        •      Development Zone 1: solar panels, inverters and batteries;
        •      Development Zone 2: solar panels, DNO substation compound, customer
               substation and meter kiosk;
        •      Development Zone 3: solar panels, inverters and batteries;
        •      Development Zone 4: solar panels, inverters and batteries;
        •      Development Zone 5: solar panels, inverters and batteries;
        •      Development Zone 6: solar panels, inverters and batteries; and
        •      Development Zone 7: solar panels, inverters and batteries.
6.22 Similarly, a small zone is shown for the POC mast compound which just allows for that
     compound to be located on either side of the hedgerow which runs through the middle
     of that zone to avoid the loss of vegetation or trees.
6.23 The final precise siting of the panels and the POC mast can be secured by condition if
     required.

Scale

6.24 The scale of the Proposed Development has been guided by the equipment required to
     generate 49.9 MW of renewable energy.
6.25 The majority of the infrastructure is made up of solar PV panels at 2.8 m high, inverters
     only slightly higher at 2.9 m. Some of the structures in the substation compound would
     be 4 m high, however, sufficient planting around individual elements and the Site as a
     whole will reduce the visual impact as well as assimilating the Site into the wider
     landscape.

Prepared for: Low Carbon Solar Park 5 Limited                                                 AECOM
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Planning, Design and Access Statement
Sandon Brook Solar Farm

6.26 The POC mast would be up to 35 m high but would be located directly adjacent to an
     existing larger pylon and would be viewed in that context, minimising its visual impact in
     views from the wider landscape.

Noise

6.27 The noise generated from the development will be minimal. The inverters would have a
     sound level of 75 dB (A) at a 1 metre distance. Given the location of the inverters at the
     centre of the development zones, the existing background noise of the A130 and the
     water treatment works at Hanningfield Reservoir, there would be no adverse noise
     impact on any neighbouring receptors.

Appearance

6.28 The most visible components of the Proposed Development would be the solar panels.
     These would be mounted on a metal frame and constructed from non-reflective glass.
6.29 It is notable that the solar panels are designed to absorb sunlight, therefore there would
     be no significant issues associated with glint and glare, although a Glint and Glare
     Assessment is submitted as part of this planning application to demonstrate this.
     Furthermore, the metal frame is treated to avoid any significant issues associated with
     glint and glare. The metal frame is necessary because it is durable and is sufficiently
     strong to hold the panels in position; a functional design requirement.
6.30 It is envisaged that the containers/cabins and other small buildings would be
     appropriately coloured or clad to minimise any visual impact and comply as far as
     practicable with the local vernacular. The structures would however be functional in
     appearance, reflecting their purposes, which is for the generation of electricity.
6.31 Cabling between rows of panels, inverters and the grid connection point would be
     underground at a prescribed depth, meaning that there would be no requirement for over
     ground cabling therefore there would be no visual impact associated with this approach
     (following initial construction).

Access

6.32 The primary access routes to the Site are from Cannon Barns Road. In addition, there
     is an access from Church Road to serve the POC mast compound, and a backup access
     to the Site which would be used infrequently.
6.33 Appropriate visibility splays are achievable from all access junctions with some
     vegetation clearance. Three of the access junctions will be constructed, or modified as
     appropriate, as part of the development to provide 6 m kerb radii and 6 m wide
     carriageway, with the remaining three access points already being capable of
     accommodating all anticipated vehicle turning manoeuvres.
6.34 The roads to/ from the Site are considered suitable to accommodate all construction and
     operational vehicle types, as all of the roads on these routes are currently used by large
     vehicles. Therefore, the construction vehicles and operational traffic associated with the
     development will be easily accommodated therefore, it is anticipated that the vehicle
     routing for the construction, operational and decommissioning phases will be the same.
6.35 Four existing PRoWs have been identified in the vicinity of the Site and will be suitably
     managed throughout construction and operation of the development. Therefore, there
     would be no impacts upon these PRoWs, and they shall remain accessible at all times.
6.36 Access routes and PROWs are illustrated on the Indicative Site Layout Plan (Reference:
     LCS039-PLE-01_rev11), as shown in Figure 4-1. For more detail, please refer to the
     Transport Statement that forms part of this application.

Prepared for: Low Carbon Solar Park 5 Limited                                           AECOM
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