Hook solar farm plan "does not need full environmental assessment", according to Hart District Council
Planners have cleared the way for a bid to build a solar farm in a field next to the busy M3.
Hart District Council has ruled an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is not needed for the proposed site off Holt Lane in Hook, meaning a planning application could soon be submitted for the four-megawatt (MW) solar farm.
Aspire Planning had applied to Hart to see if an EIA was needed, as any development more than 0.5 hectares in size could have a significant impact on the environment and may need one under UK regulations.
Documents submitted to Hart do not say how many panels the 16.93-hectare solar farm would contain.
However, the Solar Trade Association estimates that a 5MW farm will power 1,515 homes for a year and save 2,150 tonnes of CO2.
Aspire Planning said no major engineering works would be required and the main issue centred on the landscape impact of the proposal.
But the company said the site was not known for its landscape value and that photo-montages would be produced as part of a planning application.
It added that the orientation of the proposed solar panels, combined with the distance to the nearest homes, meant glint and glare to residents would be negligible.
The company also said the level of the field in relation to the adjacent M3 would ensure that reflections should also not be an issue for road users.
Aspire Planning added: “Once in place, the solar farm would be operational for a period of approximately 25 years, after which all structures can be decommissioned and removed with minimal restoration of the site required to restore it to its original state.”
Hart’s ecology consultant said the application site was close to Hook Common and Bartley Heath Site of Special Scientific Interest but would not have a direct impact on it.
He added: “I do not consider that this application would require a full EIA to be undertaken but it should still take into consideration the existing ecology of the site and surroundings.”
The consultant said any planning application should be accompanied by an ecological assessment including a habitat and protected species surveys.
The Highways Agency offered no objection, saying there was a general presumption that there would be no access to the solar farm from the M3, and recommended that solar panels were built in such a way that glint and glare was kept away from the motorway.
Natural England concluded an EIA was not required, saying it was not aware of significant populations of protected species that would be affected.
In ruling an EIA was not needed, Hart planners said there would be no significant long-distance views of the solar farm.