Guidance Note for the Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Generation in North Somerset Supplementary Planning Document

Site Detail

4. Site detail  

4.1 It is important that solar PV developments are sympathetic to the existing environment and minimal disruption must take place during the construction and operational phases of any development. 

4.2 We expect all developments to include at least a five metre buffer strip between hedges and solar panels for access, hedge management and consideration to biodiversity impacts.  

Panel details  

4.3 The scale and specification of the solar PV panels will be required when assessing applications. The extent of the array and its angle of repose should be specified, along with a maximum height and the parameters of any ‘tracking’ element (for those panels that change angle to follow the path of the sun), including its range of height variation.  

4.4 Solar panels are designed to absorb, not reflect, irradiation. However, the sensitivities associated with glint and glare, including the landscape/visual impact and the potential impact on aircraft safety, should not be underestimated. Particular consideration should be given to the glint/glare impact on properties that are higher up a slope than the solar development, as the angles involved mean that these are most likely to experience any glint/glare effects created. Therefore the potential for the solar PV panels, frames and supports to have a combined reflective quality should be evaluated through a glint and glare assessment. This assessment needs to consider the likely reflective capacity of all of the materials used in the construction of the solar array, with particular reference to the face of the solar PV panel, and the likely lines of refection relative to the suns trajectory.  

Ground works and anchoring  

4.5 Site levelling and groundworks should be kept to a minimum. Any site levelling works necessary to facilitate the development of a solar PV array should be discussed at the pre-application stage, and detailed within any planning application.  

4.6 Solar PV facilities that are developed on agricultural ground must be ‘reversible’ allowing the site to be easily restored to agriculture. Hence intrusive ground work’s, such as trenching and foundations should be minimised and the use of concrete avoided. Frames should be pile driven or screw anchored and not concrete-based, and capable of easy removal, allowing the ground to be fully restored. In windy areas the stability of the installation will need to be considered.  

Security and fencing  

4.7 Fencing is likely to be required with solar array proposals, primarily to enable the developer to insure the site. Fencing must not obstruct public rights of way, nor restrict wildlife corridors. Wildlife access crossing points should be included wherever possible. 

4.8 Applicants are advised wherever possible to minimise the use and height of security fencing. Any fencing should have minimal visual impact in terms of colouration and ‘see-through’ capacity should be utilised. Existing features such as copses, hedges and other natural landscape features should be retained to screen security fencing, supplemented by additional native planting. The use of security lighting should be kept to an absolute minimum, and should utilise a passive infra-red (PIR) technology, designed and installed in a manner that minimises glare and light pollution. Permanent lighting will not be permitted.  

4.9 Planning applications should contain full details and specifications of all security and lighting installations in order to allow an accurate landscape/ visual assessment of the proposal to be made.    

4.10 Where pole-mounted CCTV facilities are proposed, their location should be carefully considered to minimise visual/landscape impact.  

Access and inverter housing  

4.11 Access details should be submitted and should aim to utilise existing tracks where a hard surfaced access is necessary. The installation of additional access tracks should be kept to an absolute minimum, and will not be acceptable between rows of solar panels. Generally, service vehicles should be capable of servicing these facilities without the need to construct access tracks.  

4.12 Inverter buildings, and any other associated building proposals, should be unobtrusively sited within the site, with material tones and colours designed to reflect landscape context. A statement to justify any building and its size will be required, especially in the Green Belt and within the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

Grounds and site maintenance  

4.13 In most instances, the ground beneath solar panels is capable of remaining in agricultural use. Existing pasture cover should be maintained, whilst if the land is currently arable, applicants are advised to grass-seed the site. The land will require management, and the preferred option is that sheep grazing or similar should be enabled. If the grass is to be mown, then the potential for habitat gain, through wildflower-seeding, should be considered. 

Grid connection  

4.14 Application proposals should provide a broad indication of the route of connectivity to the electrical grid. The nature and extent of that connection should be clearly indicated on the site plan. Such connectivity should avoid areas of high landscape, ecological or archaeological sensitivity, and not be extensive or visually intrusive. Connection to the grid may cause an accumulation of overhead wiring, if this occurs in sensitive areas, the cumulative impact will need to be assessed.  

4.15 The capacity of the grid may be a consideration in an application; we recommend you contact Western Power Distribution to discuss your proposal at an early stage.