Skip to content

Countryside-wrecking solar farm refused permission by Ashford council

David Mairs
By David Mairs
22nd April 2024

Scheme would have caused “significant adverse impacts on the rural landscape”

Let’s start the week with some good news!

A scheme for a solar farm in a wholly inappropriate setting has been refused planning permission by Ashford Borough Council.

Green Switch Capital’s proposed North Court Solar Farm would have covered 114 acres of apple orchards north-east of Old Wives Lees next to the Kent Downs National Landscape, but thankfully the council’s planning committee refused the application on the following grounds:

“The proposed development would fail to conserve or enhance the special qualities, distinctive character and tranquillity of the site. It would result in significant adverse impacts on the rural landscape and be harmful to the setting of the Kent Downs National Landscape.

“The development would also harm the amenity and experience of users of the public rights of way, including the North Downs Way National Trail, and would cause less than substantial harm to the setting of designated heritage assets. The benefits of the proposed development would not outweigh these harms.

“The development would therefore be contrary to policies SP1, SP6, ENV1, ENV3a, ENV3b, ENV5, ENV10 and ENV13 of the Ashford Local Plan 2030, and the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework, National Policy Statements EN-1 and EN-3 and the Kent Downs AONB Management Plan 2021-2026.”

CPRE Kent, which accepts the need for renewable energy and does not object to the vast majority of solar-farm applications in the county, most certainly did object to this one, which would have blighted a fantastic stretch of countryside. The proposed site is crossed by the North Downs Way, a historic route giving wonderful views across rolling countryside; the Pilgrims’ Way also joins the North Downs Way here.

A strong campaign was launched against the project, fought primarily by Save Old Wives Lees from Industrial Solar (SOWLIS), who deserve great credit for their efforts.

Green Switch Capital has six months to appeal the decision.

The site lies close to Old Wives Lees (pic SOWLIS)
The solar farm would have blighted beautiful downland scenery (pic SOWLIS)