Planning permission was granted by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to build a 64-acre solar park, on 27th November 2014, at Hadlow Place Farm at Tudeley, on the outskirts of Tonbridge, Kent. The park, which was to contain 64,800 panels, was designed to generate enough power to supply 4,500 homes a year.

Approval was given in spite of the objections of local residents. An earlier public consultation on the planning application had produced submissions expressing concerns relating to the solar park's size and the intrusiveness of the large number of solar panels, the loss of good quality agricultural land, and the precedent that allowing the planning application would set regarding the land's future use.

Objectors included Protect Kent, the local branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England who, while supporting the role that solar energy should play in future energy production, were opposed to large scale solar farms beings located in protected countryside because of the impact they have on the character of the locality and the fact that they, in effect, industrialise those landscapes. They expressed the belief that a development such as that at Hadlow Place Farm was an abuse of the concept of the Metropolitan Green Belt, the purpose of which is to act as a buffer against the development of such land.

This development highlights a conflict that exists between two aspects of public policy in the UK; the need to balance the government's commitment, required by a European Union Directive, to increase the supply of renewable energy to 15% of all energy consumed, with the equally important commitment to the preservation of agricultural land. The land at Hadlow Place Farm was Agricultural Land Classification Grade 3a and was, therefore, considered to be part of the best and most versatile agricultural land (BMVAL) and to be worthy of preservation. In this instance the need for renewable energy was deemed to outweigh the need to preserve good quality farming land.

The solar farm has since been built at Hadlow Place Farm by British Solar Renewables and was commissioned in 2015 with a power output of 18.9 MW. The development is classed as temporary in spite of the fact that it will be in existence for 25 years with an option of extending its use for a further 25 years.

Get in touch