Avian Ecology recently supported JBM Solar Projects at Public Inquiry for the Copse Lodge Solar Farm, near Greatworth in Northamptonshire. In his decision notice, the Inspector acknowledged the very substantial benefit to biodiversity benefits the project will deliver, affording it substantial weight in his final decision to award planning permission. Avian company Director Howard Fearn appeared at the Inquiry, answering questions from the Inspector and the ‘Rule 6’ party. With increasing numbers of solar developments across the UK, planning appeals and inquiries seem to increase. Avian Ecology is supporting several similar applications, helping to ensure that a robust assessment is achieved and enabling developers to progress through challenges in knowledge that their project is compliant with local and national policies, and is fully defendable.

Avian Ecology’s experience in the UK solar industry is unsurpassed, having delivered several hundred schemes all over the country, including multiple nationally significant scale infrastructure projects (NSIPs). A well-designed solar park will deliver very substantial benefits for biodiversity, often by taking ecologically poor land into meadows, which not only helps wildlife but also contributes to ecological connectivity across a much wider area. But of course, a poorly located or badly designed solar park can also have negative impacts and so care must be taken to avoid these. The changing landscape of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) offers developers an opportunity to robustly demonstrate the positives of solar development, but obligations to protect and enhance populations of on protected species remain a planning requirement and should be considered alongside BNG.

Our team is fully conversant in the unique planning challenges solar developments can sometimes face, ranging from issues with skylarks and other ground-nesting birds to emerging studies on how bats interact with solar panels, as well as compliance to Habitats Regulations should the project be located in close proximity to an important protected area. With strong advice from the start of a project and intelligent design, few if any of these issues should be prohibitive to a development which delivers on both renewable energy targets and biodiversity benefits.