05 FEB 2016

Staplehurst campaigners celebrate as Great Pagehurst application is refused

Helen Grant MP: 'This Solar Farm battle is won, but the war has just begun'

After three years and an exhaustive opposition campaign Maidstone Borough Council last night refused an application to build a large solar farm installation on green belt land in Staplehurst.

The refusal was based upon the visual impairment to the rural environment and was decided upon at a packed meeting at Maidstone Town Hall on Thursday 4th February. The issue was debated for almost two hours before the vote came and jubilant campaigners breathed a sigh of relief. Maidstone & The Weald MP Helen Grant was present throughout the meeting having worked closely with the Great Pagehurst steering group since 2013.

Helen said "I am so relieved at this decision. Several key issues have arisen from this debate which I hope will help defeat several other applications that are in the system, for example; the possibility an applicant could extend the 25 year period of permission without having to return the land to arable use and the fact that after 25 years the site could well be classified as mixed use brown-field and not arable green-belt are but two major concerns.

Perhaps the biggest issue is the combined effect of new rural development plans. This is one of six solar farm applications in the area which, together with plans for thousands of new homes, has the potential to destroy forever the rural heritage we call the Garden of England enjoyed by farmers, local people and tourists from all over the world.

This Solar Farm battle has been won, but the war has just begun on our rural heritage. We have a long way to go yet but we have a great team and we will fight to the end."

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