Boom Power have successfully won their appeal for a 25.6-megawatt (export capacity) solar farm located to the East of Billericay, Essex. The Crays Hall Solar Farm was granted permission at appeal on the 30th of August 2023 after a hearing at Basildon Borough Council. The successful scheme will assist the Council in their quest to target borough wide net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The scheme will increase the proportion of locally produced renewable energy – aiding the Council in their aims to deliver locally produced renewable energy from a baseline of 5% – to 90% by 2050. The appeal decision demonstrates that solar schemes like Crays Hall represent one of the most deliverable options to help Essex County and Basildon District reach their climate change objectives. This is also true at a national level where the need for solar generation is recognised by the British Energy Security Statement published in 2022.

The scheme was previously rejected at planning committee on the potential effect on the openness of the Metropolitan Green Belt, the effect on landscape character and visual amenity and whether any harm was clearly outweighed by other considerations. However, in reaching his decision, the Inspector attributes weight to the substantial environmental and biodiversity benefits of the scheme and the lack of suitable sites in Basildon. The annual generation output would meet the electrical needs of +12,500 family homes whilst offsetting 13,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The landscaping and land management proposals would also deliver 94% biodiversity net gain (BNG) for area-based habitats and 53% gain for linear habitats (hedgerows) – this BNG far exceeds any expectation in local or national policy. Furthermore, significant positive weight has been afforded to continued agricultural use for grazing and a limited degree of harm to the landscape character with proposed planting measures and the protection of Public Rights of Way.

Solar addresses all important aspects of existing and emerging government policy. It will make a critical and timely contribution to decarbonisation and security of supply; it will help shield consumer bills from volatile energy prices and provides the potential to deliver biodiversity net gains through its development whilst also providing much needed support for farmers.

Mark Hogan, Founder of Boom Power says, “It is a very welcome appeal decision which reinforces the team’s dedication to ensure all our projects are sympathetic to the natural landscape and deliver real, crucial benefits. Crays Hall is an important project in our pipeline, and we expect it to play an equally important role in supporting the strategic vision for rapid decarbonisation to build climate resilience. I am proud of what we have achieved and look forward to getting the construction underway in the first half of next year.”

Head of Planning for Boom Power, Jack Spurway comments, “The appeal decision is fantastic, it is the outcome that we all wanted and expected, receiving it ahead of the determination deadline is an added bonus. The decision reflects the fact that we acted quickly and put the right team in place to support our appeal. We are very grateful to our project partners who prepared the appeal and attended the hearing for giving the inspector the information required to make the right decision.”