Landscape

The site does not fall under any statutory or non-statutory designation for landscape quality. The proposed development will, by its very nature and because of the countryside location, have some limited effects in relation to landscape. A landscape and visual appraisal (LVA) will be undertaken for the proposed development that will consider the effects of the proposed scheme on the landscape as an environmental resource in its own right. The LVA will consider the potential visual change of views of the area in addition to assessing the impact of the proposed development on visual amenity.

The site falls within the green belt. The National Planning Policy Framework (paragraph 151) explicitly states that “the wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources” contribute to the very special circumstances that will be put forward to justify the development’s location within the green belt. The proposed solar park will not cause a coalescence of two settlements or lead to further urban growth. The proposal itself does not harm any heritage assets owing to the topography of the land and intervening built features.

The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) lies to the west and is adjacent to the site. There are thick hedgerows and trees on Little Heath Lane that screen the site from the AONB. Owing to the local topography and existing vegetation, there will be a very limited impact on the AONB and its setting. The LVA accompanying the application has assessed the impact of the proposal on the AONB and will propose further mitigation including a hedgerow along the site’s western boundary to reduce any impact.


Access and traffic management

The site would be accessed from an existing access point and the project will include the installation of gates and a turning area. The distribution network operator substation would have separate access branching off from the existing access. This would be maintained for the life of the development. Little Heath Lane connects to the A4251 which connects on to the A41 and Hemel Hempstead.

It is considered that the existing access to the site would be suitable for construction and maintenance vehicles and that, once it becomes operational, the development would create very little additional traffic. The duration of the construction period will be short owing to the nature of the development.

A construction traffic management plan will be submitted with the planning application; this will cover managing construction traffic and, specifically, HGVs accessing the site during construction operational hours.


Public rights of way

There are no public rights of way within or directly adjacent to the site. The footpath Nettleden with Potten End 003 is more than 370m to the north of the site and Hemel Hempstead 091 is about 300m to the west.


Operational lifespan

The development would have a lifespan of about 40 years. At the end of the useful life of the facility, it will be decommissioned and all the associated equipment will be removed. It is considered that the land can then be quickly reinstated for agricultural use.