The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society has responded to the public consultation by the developer of Bunker’s Hill solar farm. We submitted our response to JBM Solar by their extended deadline of Friday, 23rd October 2020. To request a full copy of our response, please email us.
The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society was established in 1980 and seeks to protect the River Whitewater and its valley landscape.
The Bunker’s Hill proposed development is located on a greenfield site, on the western valley sides of the Whitewater Valley, on gently undulating land.
Landscape character and type
The developers website makes no reference to landscape character.
However, Hart’s Landscape Character Assessment (1997) identifies the Whitewater Valley landscape character area as within the Open Arable Farmland landscape type.
More recently, Hampshire’s Integrated Landscape character assessment (2010) classifies the site as falling within Lower Mosaic Open landscape type.
Both the above assessments will be relevant to assessing the effects of the proposed development on the landscape resource.
Rights of way
There are a number of public rights of way which pass through the site.
In particular, the Brenda Parker Way long distance route runs between Andover and Aldershot. This route connects Tylney Park with the river valley and West Green Conservation Area in the east.
Other footpaths provide circular routes from centres of population into and across the Whitewater Valley landscape.
The use and value of these routes increased dramatically this year and has remained high with many residents now working from home.
Landscape and visual impact assessment
Local communities value the valley as a recreational resource. So it will be important that the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) provides a comprehensive set of representative viewpoints. These include assessment of effects from other key features, such as heritage and nature conservation assets, particularly where they contribute to sense of place and special qualities of the landscape more widely.
The proposed development includes a number of features, which can give rise to landscape and visual effects, in addition to the photovoltaic arrays. Ancillary development, such as fencing and CCTV posts, can also have an urbanising influence on the landscape.
Deer fencing in an area heavily populated by deer and in a council named after the deer (Hart) is of particular concern.
The current proposed layout does not detail the position of inverters (other than the central inverter), CCTV poles, storage container(s), access arrangements, delivery station or the location of the construction compound.
We would expect the LVIA to consider the effects of all aspects of the proposed development. This includes during construction, operation and in relation to the potential for solar glare.
Local Plan Policy NBE2 – Landscape is relevant to the proposed application. It states that ‘development must respect and wherever possible enhance the special characteristics, value and visual amenity of the District’s landscapes. This should be done with reference to the Hart District Landscape Character Assessment, visual amenity and scenic quality of the landscape and other identified criteria.’
There is increased recognition of the value of landscapes in terms of Local Plan Policy, local communities (as reflected in the Hook Neighbourhood Plan) and National Planning Policy (Para 170). Given this, we request that the LVIA includes a detailed assessment of landscape value of the Whitewater Valley, which will be affected by the proposed development.
In terms of mitigation of the proposed development, we would expect to see how the proposed design and layout of the development has evolved to minimise landscape and visual effects. Where there are residual effects, these should be mitigated through appropriate landscaping both on and off site.