A solar developer has had a project in Devon approved by a minister on appeal, after a countryside charity was found to have mis-stated the grade of farmland it is to occupy.

Representatives of the Campaign to Protect Rural England claimed in planning submissions that JBM Solar’s 49.9MWp project at Langford, nine miles from Exeter, was to include agriculturally useful Grade 3A land among its intended 61 hectares.

A planning inspector upheld the London-based developers’ contention that none reached that standard, the mid-point on the five-point Agricultural Land Classification used in England and Wales to assess land suitability for solar.

“It is clear that the highest some parts of the site could aspire to is 3B – and it is most likely to be lower than that”, the inspector judged. “On that basis, the loss of this land, even if it were a permanent and total loss, would not receive policy protection”

Delighting solar advocates, the decision was endorsed on appeal by Lucy Frazer MP, housing and planning minister.   Langford is thus believed to be the biggest project to date to gain the backing – albeit implicit – of new prime minister Rishi Sunak’s administration.

On a good day for solar PV’s apparently unstoppable expansion, leading investors in the technology NextEnergy Capital had earlier confirmed it had raised 97% of its targeted £ 500 million in its Next Power UK ESG fund, designed to build British solar projects.

The new fund has gone through two fund-raising stages, the first finishing only in August.  Latest backers include Strathclyde’s pension fund, the UK Infrastructure Bank and a Japanese institution. They join UK funds managing pensions for public sector workers on Merseyside and west London. Others are being sought.

Next Energy Capital has spent a total of £145 million, acquiring three projects, two of them already generating.

CEO Michael Bonte-Friedheim said “NPUK is a first-of-a-kind investment vehicle, targeting new build, unsubsidised solar projects exclusively in the UK.  We are leading the global solar sector, in offering innovative investment vehicles for institutional investors”.

Also in solar investment, another developer, London-based Low Carbon confirmed financing from NatWest, Lloyds Bank and AIB, primed to trigger construction of 75MWp of projects at three sites in Essex, Derbyshire and Buckinghamshire.   It targets 1 GWp, in a pipeline  divided between Britain and the Netherlands.


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