German company Kronos Solar has made an initial ‘screening request’ to the borough council seeking advice on what would be required for a full planning application relating to two sites east and north of the junction of Dolly Lane and Ladypit Road, once linked to the Dolly Pit colliery.
The sites fall just outside the the national park boundary, but the authority has already signalled its opposition in a submission to council planning officers.
In the email, a park representative notes: “The submitted information dismisses the proximity and importance of the Peak District National Park's protected landscape and fails to take into account the duty on public bodies under Section 62 of the Environment Act 1995 to have regard to national park purposes, including that to conserve and enhance natural beauty.
“The landscape and visual impact assessment of any submitted application must be of the highest standard and take into account the nationally designated landscape that abuts the site. Our initial assessment is that the proposal would be visually prominent and intrusive in some key views. It would also result in a high degree of landscape harm especially in views into the park.”
It adds that the proposals from Kronos appear to pre-judge any formal assessment in stating that the development would not be expected to “affect the nature of the national park”, and would “generate minimal disturbances to its surroundings”.
The potential development sites described by Kronos as currently containing on-site vegetation including mature trees, woodland patches and fences separating individual fields.
It adds: “Further mature trees, woodlands and hedges on the external site boundaries together with the undulating landscape contribute to limited viewpoints into the site.”
Neighbouring residents have also outlined early objections, citing the possible impact on views of a beauty spot, wildlife, plants, public footpaths and the Beardwood Natural Living Project.
There has been some confusion over the plans, as documents submitted by the applicant state: “The land belongs to the High Peak Borough Council.” However, the council has confirmed to the Advertiser that it does not own the land, and that the sentence most likely refers to the fact that the sites fall within its planning jurisdiction.
A spokesperson for the borough said: “This is an application for an environmental impact assessment screening opinion rather than a planning application. It is a formal request by the developer to determine whether an environmental statement (ES) will need to be submitted with a possible future planning application for a solar farm on this site.
“Determining whether an ES is required is a technical exercise relating to the information requirements for any future application. It is not a decision on the planning merits of the case. If a planning application is received for the development in the future then that will be subject to the usual full public consultation and consideration by the development control committee.”