Member of the Welsh Parliament for Monmouth, Nick Ramsay, has received a considerable amount of correspondence in recent days from constituents who are extremely concerned about a planning application for a proposed 45MW solar energy farm at Penpergwm.
Nick has written to Julie James MS, Minister for Housing and Local Government to raise concerns about the proposals.
A reply received from the Minister in the last few days has explained that as the solar farm has an expected generating capacity of over 10 MW it is a Development of National Significance (DNS), and planning applications for such development must be made to the Welsh Ministers.
The letter from Julie James MS continued: “Your constituents suggest the Welsh Government has ‘allowed’ a screening request and disregarded views of Monmouthshire County Council (“MCC”). To clarify events to date, the applicant submitted a request on 14 October 2020 for the Welsh Ministers to make a direction to decide whether the development requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”), within the meaning of the Town and Country Planning (EIA) (Wales) Regulations 2017, to supplement any prospective DNS planning application. The Planning Inspectorate, acting on behalf of the Welsh Ministers, decided on 12 November 2020 no EIA is required. As MCC is not the determining authority, it cannot issue such decisions in relation DNS planning applications, and consequently no views were disregarded.
“Due to the Welsh Ministers’ statutory role in deciding DNS planning applications, I cannot comment further in relation to it as to do so may prejudice any future decision made in relation to the scheme. Furthermore, in making any decision, I also cannot take into account who the applicant is and the applicant’s background.
“ It is, however, encouraged your constituents engage with the DNS planning process. Prospective applicants for DNS planning applications must undertake a period of statutory pre-application consultation in advance of submitting a DNS planning application. In doing so, the prospective applicant must produce a report which gives particulars of the account taken of all responses to the consultation, as part of its submission of a DNS planning application. My understanding is the applicant has not commenced this formal process yet.
“ Following submission to the Welsh Ministers, the Planning Inspectorate will accept and administer the DNS planning application. It will undertake a further consultation for a period of 5 weeks with consultees and the public, and will require MCC to submit a Local Impact Report which sets out what it considers to be the impacts within the authority area. Should the application give rise to issues which require further exploration by the appointed Planning Inspector, further representations will be required or a public hearing or inquiry may be held into those issues. A decision is expected within 36 weeks of acceptance of the application by the Planning Inspectorate.
“Guidance on how communities may participate in the DNS process is contained at the following webpage: https://gov.wales/developments-national-significance-dns-engaging-proce…
“The Planning Inspectorate website will contain the full details and all comments received in relation to the application, once submitted. Your constituents are advised to sign up to the following webpage to receive updates about the application, including when it is submitted and when opportunities to make representations will arise: https://dns.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/wales/penpergwm-solar-farm/ “
Nick is urging all constituents who have concerns about the application to make their views known to the Planning Inspectorate when it is possible to do so.