The proposed development was granted full planning permission on 24th July 2020. Six planning conditions were attached to the decision notice, with the first two being the standard five year expiration and approved plans conditions.
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Where is the scheme located?
Under contract with Cenin Renewables Ltd in Bridgend, James Banks was the lead planning consultant who secured a lawful development certificate for a new 2.4MW Ground Mounted Solar Photovoltaic Development within Cardiff Airport. The site lies towards the southern tip of Cardiff Airport between airfield hanger buildings and residential properties within Rhoose, Vale of Glamorgan. The site itself is an underutilised turfed field which is relatively limited to further large commercial or industrial development.
What is the proposed development?
The proposed development includes an East-West photo-voltaic solar array within the grounds of Cardiff Airport where the power generated would be used solely by the Airport. The panels will be 1m in width, 1.65m in length and will be raised on metal struts to have a maximum height of 0.7m and minimum height of 0.53m from ground level. The total land area of the site will be 2.36ha comprising of the array, substation and access perimeter and the array itself will be 1.85ha. Unlike south facing solar panels where energy generation usually peaks during midday, these east-west panels will allow energy generation to be distributed more evenly throughout daylight hours. The scheme will contribute towards Cardiff Airport becoming carbon neutral by 2050 in line with national government
What are the material planning considerations?
The lawful development certificate was sought under Section 192 of the Town and Country Planning
Act 1990 (As Amended), meaning that the developer must prove the proposed scheme is within the
permitted development criteria of Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development)
Order 1995 (as amended), Schedule 2, Part 18 Aviation Development (GPDO). It was considered that in order for the proposed scheme to be achieved under permitted development, it had to satisfy particulars under Class A including:
- Principle of development
- Maximum height of the solar panels
- Level of cubic capacity
The clean energy generated through the proposed solar array would be solely utilised by Cardiff Airport and not commercially sold back to the grid. This is an important point as it is stipulated within the GPDO where the development is carried out in connection with the provision of services and facilities at a relevant airport agent. On a technical point the array should still be connected to the grid to discharge surplus energy that the Airport does not utilise in peak generation periods.
To satisfy the GPDO, the proposed panels cannot be higher than 4 metres from ground level. As
shown on the elevation plans, the solar panels will not exceed 0.7 metres from ground level, meaning
the scheme would comply with this statutory requirement.
The GPDO requires that development in Part 18 of the Schedule must not exceed 200 cubic metres
in capacity. The term ‘capacity’ infers the volume of a building or enclosed space but the PV solar
panel development lacks such a definition. As seen on the elevation plans the panels will fixed to the
ground using metal struts, leaving large open spaces underneath the panels. Usually, if these panels
were to be installed within a parcel of land utilised for grazing, farm animals such as sheep would be
able to freely pass between the panels. It was not considered that the term ‘capacity’ is relevant to this solar farm development and this was further exemplified by the shallow thickness of the panels
What was the Final Planning Decision?
The proposed development was granted a lawful development certificate on 9th July 2020. As a proposed lawful development application, there were no attached planning conditions attached to the decision notice like with full planning application. Given that planning fees in Wales is £380 per 0.1ha, a full planning application for this scheme would have had a Council planning fee of £6,840. There would have been several more material considerations which may have also required further expense such as drainage, ecology, glint glare, etc assessments which were not required under a proposed lawful development certificate where the Council planning fee was only £190. Furthermore, a planning application would have been classed as major development as the land area covers more than 1 hectare, however, as a proposed lawful development certificate there was no requirement to carry out a pre-application consultation process and corresponding report, saving a further 4-5 weeks during the planning phase of development.
James Banks was the lead planning consultant who secured a lawful development certificate for a new 2.4MW Ground Mounted Solar Photovoltaic Development within Cardiff Airport.
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