This landmark development has the potential to power over 90,000 homes and save over 68,000 tonnes of CO2, a significant step in helping the UK achieve its aim of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
As a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) was submitted in November 2018 and granted in May 2020. Arcus co-ordinated the project and managed the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Our Landscape Architecture team undertook the masterplan, mitigation masterplan, Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA), Residential Visual Amenity Assessment (RVAA), supported the comprehensive public consultation process and represented the clients at the DCO hearing.
Cleve Hill Solar Park is a sustainable infrastructure development by its nature. However, what makes it truly unique is the landscape-led masterplan approach, working with the fabric of the landscape from the outset. This has allowed the project to successfully overcome examination stages without any amendments to landscape design, as well as being granted the first ever DCO consent for a solar project.
Our design response therefore focussed on:
- Screening elements of the Development from key receptor locations, e.g., nearby residential properties in line with adjacent landscape character areas;
- Soften ' hard edges' of the Development from the Saxon Shore Way National Trail utilising wide offset margins and establishment of grazing marsh and reeds;
- Reflect existing landscape elements and character in areas of the wider Development site (not subject to built development);
- Retain or enhance the natural amenity of the existing public rights of way within the site boundary.
This project deserves to win this award because:
- It is the largest project ever to gain consent on the back of a landscape-led masterplan approach to solar energy infrastructure;
- The landscape work enables new technology, low carbon electricity, subsidy free;
- The site comprises a challenging landscape and visual environment, with challenges overcome through an innovative, thoughtful and appropriate landscape response;
- The application was subject to substantial scrutiny at a local level, so the approach needed to be meticulous in accuracy but also sympathetic to the viewpoints of the surrounding area;
- Uniquely, the team's careful planning and clear respect for the site's character meant that no amendments were required to the LVIA or landscape mitigation/design during the Examination;
- The scheme has been granted the first ever DCO consent for solar;
- The Examining Authority report concurred with the nature and scale of the approach taken, stating:
o 'the design of the Proposed Development has evolved to reduce landscape and visual impacts through bringing its boundaries back to the lower-lying ground and increasing buffers to some sensitive receptors';
o 'some limited and appropriate mitigation planting is proposed, but a more extensive scheme would in itself cause adverse landscape and visual impacts in the open, expansive landscape'.
In order to achieve the above we specified the following mitigation measures representative of the character of the site and surrounding landscape including:
- 1.8 km permissive path providing car free access, connecting local villages and the PRoW network to the seafront (Saxon Shore Way);
- Over 3.6 km of native hedgerows containing over 500 native trees;
- 0.72 ha of native woodland;
- 1.27 ha of native shelterbelt;
- 1.5 ha of native shrub and small tree planting;
- 4.3 ha of Native Scrub;
- 13.5 ha of Lowland Grass Meadow;
- Approx. 285 ha of Coastal and Flood Plain Grazing Marsh;
- 55 ha of Fresh Water Grazing Marsh; and
- 31 ha of Fresh Water Grazing Marsh Enhancement.
- 4.5 m high, 28 m wide and 1.2 km earth bund to screen electrical compound
- Placement of electrical compound adjacent to existing substation and Cleve Hill to minimise visual effects.
Overall, we ensured a site with very high local visibility could accommodate a development of this scale whilst maintaining key landscape characteristics and minimising landscape and visual effects.
Cleve Hill Solar Park
Arcus Consultancy Services Limited T/A Surface Property
LI Awrds 2020 Finalist - Excellence in Sustainable Infrastructure
Arcus Consultancy Services Ltd Hive Energy Ltd Wirsol Energy Ltd Counter Context Pinsent Mason CMS Curtains
Approximately £250 M to £450 M