[Electoral Divisions: Old Barrow]
To consider a report from the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure (copy enclosed)
Mr W McEwan declared a non-pecuniary interest in this item as he was a member of Barrow Borough Council’s Planning Committee.
The Committee considered a report on an application which sought planning application of a 2 Mega watt (MW) ground mounted Solar Array and associated infrastructure on land off Dova Way, Barrow Island, Barrow-in-Furness.
The Lead Officer informed members that Barrow Borough Council had objected to the proposal as it would result in the loss of part of a site allocated for employment use. However, despite repeated requests the Borough Council had not provided any information to evidence interest on the use of the application site for employment related purposes.
It was reported that Cumbria County Council had marketed the site a number of times but there had been no significant interest from suitable end users.
The Lead Officer understood the desire of Barrow Borough Council to retain the land for employment use, but the evidence suggested little or no interest from developers despite the amount of public investment that had been made to try to attract employment uses.
Given that around 80% of the allocated land could still be retained for employment use, the officer was satisfied that there would be not significant unacceptable impacts on the allocated site. Given the strong support for renewable energy proposals, and the lack of a demonstrable prejudice to the allocated site, he therefore recommended that planning permission be granted, subject to the conditions listed in Appendix 1 of the report.
One of the members from Barrow in Furness understood that employment at BAE Systems was due to increase from 10,000 to up to 17,000 over the next few years and he asked how confident the County Council was that this would not become an obstacle in future of this application was granted.
The Lead Officer said he was confident this would not be a problem as this application would only use 20% of the site.
Another Barrow member had heard a rumour that BAE were looking for land to use as a car park. The Lead Officer was not aware of this and currently had no information on this, but the application in front of members must be decided on current evidence.
Members asked if it would be possible to defer this application pending evidence from Barrow Borough Council. The Manager Development Control and Sustainable Development reassured members that the County Council had requested the evidence twice from the Borough Council, but that had not been forthcoming. He reminded members that applications could only be assessed on available evidence.
The Chair then invited the registered speakers to address the meeting.
First to speak was Mr James Daplyn on behalf of the applicant who made the following points.
· The Barrow Waterfront site had been developed over a number of years and Barrow Borough Council had already used some of this for office workspace.
· Outlined the funding from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership to further develop the site.
· Despite the marketing of the site for employment use over a number of years the site is still standing empty
· The positive outcomes that a solar farm will bring (carbon reduction and income generation) in relation to the above points
· He confirmed that only 20% of the site would be used up by this application and the Council would continue to market the rest for employment use.
Next to speak was Mr Dale Hunter the agent for the application, with the following points:-
· Waterfront Business Park EMR03 designation
· Limited proportion of area utilised
· Currently vacant land and implications in planning terms
· Temporary nature of the development
· Cumbria County Council’s Carbon Management Strategy 2022
· Minimal works required to install and decommission the solar farm
· Alternative sites considered
One of the members asked about other potential sites that could have been used instead, and whether other sites had been considered. The agent confirmed that over 63 sites were looked at as part of this project.
The recommendation was then moved and seconded and out to a vote, which was unanimous. It was
RESOLVED, that Planning Permission be GRANTED subject to conditions as set out in Appendix 1 of the report.