Sun sets on land owner's 18-month battle to build solar farm

4:02pm Tuesday 27th November 2012

By Katie Bamber

A DEVELOPER has given up his 18-month battle to build a solar farm on Green Belt land after government inspectors threw out his appeal.

Tommy Tomkins applied to build a 12,000-panel park on nearly 20 acres of his land at Netherhouse Farm, in Sewardstone, south of Waltham Abbey, in May last year.

The plans were rejected by the district council in September, but resubmitted two months later.

After his second bid was turned down in February the land owner took the case to the Planning Inspectorate - but has now had his appeal dismissed.

Mr Tomkins hit out at the inspector's finding that any potential environmental benefits were outweighed by harm to the Green Belt.

He said: "We should have natural power in this country.

"No one could have seen it, it was perfect."

The solar farm application was the most recent in a string of controversial applications by Mr Tomkins, who allowed the Ministry of Defence to use his land as a missile base during the Olympics.

Previous proposals included a 41-house estate and a golf course - both rejected by the council.

He said he had given up hope of having future plans approved by councillors.

"I don't think you can get too much through Epping Forest District Council.

"It's like putting a bulldozer against a barn door.

"I'm not wasting any more money with people who don't want anything."

Inspector Martin Pike said the panels and security fence surrounding them would have created a 'loss of openness' and detracted from the 'unspoilt rural character of the landscape'.

The City of London Corporation, which owns the section of Epping Forest bordering the farm, has been one of the application's most vociferous opponents.

Gordon Haines, chairman of the corporation's Epping Forest committee, welcomed the inspectorate's ruling.

He said: "Whilst we are in favour of sustainable energy production, had this development gone through it would have had a damaging impact on the character of the protected Green Belt and its wildlife."

A district council spokesman said: "The site is in the metropolitan Green Belt where there is a clear presumption against inappropriate development unless there are very special circumstances to outweigh Green Belt harm.

"The government's planning inspector agreed with the council's planning officers that there would be landscape harm which would not be outweighed by any potential green energy issues in this case."

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