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Solar farm refused: a win for the community and the Green Belt at Aldenham

18th April 2024

We’re delighted with the Secretary of State’s decision to dismiss the developer’s appeal and refuse permission for an industrial-scale solar farm in the Green Belt at Aldenham in Hertsmere Borough.

We want to see solar energy generation on rooftops, car park canopies and brownfield sites such as the verges along railways.

But we believe it’s inappropriate to build large-scale commercial solar installations in countryside locations such as highly-valued landscapes, designated protected areas such as the Green Belt, or on productive ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land.

So we’re pleased to see the government’s decision in this nationally-significant case. The decision reinforces the principle that the UK’s need for renewable energy does not automatically override other important land-use considerations.

The solar farm proposal

Elstree Green Ltd submitted their original planning application for the 130 hectare (320 acre) site in January 2021. The proposed development included solar photovoltaic panels, battery energy storage, substation, inverters / transformers and ancillary facilities. Along with nearly 2000 local residents, we objected to this proposed industrialisation of the countryside.

Our objections centred on harm to the openness of the Green Belt, harm to landscape character, harm to the setting of several heritage assets, and harm to recreational amenity; there are no less than 14 much-utilised Public Rights of Way adjacent to and running across the proposed development site. Read our original objections for details, here and here.

Hertsmere Borough Councillors refused permission, although the planning officers had recommended approval. The developer then appealed.

The planning appeal Inquiry

The Planning Inspectorate conducted a planning appeal Inquiry in October and November 2022.

CPRE Hertfordshire participated at the Inquiry as part of a Rule 6 combined objectors’ group, assisted by Wayne Beglan of Cornerstone Barristers. Other members of the combined objectors’ group were Stop the Solar Plant Save our Green Belt (a local campaign group), Letchmore Heath Village Trust, Radlett Society and Green Belt Association, Elstree and Borehamwood Green Belt Society, Save Radlett (a local campaign group), Bhaktivedanta Manor, and Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council.

At the Inquiry, over several days we reiterated our strong objections, we cross-examined the developer’s witnesses, and we were cross-examined by the developer’s barrister.

At the conclusion of the Inquiry, the Planning Inspector made her recommendation to the Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) who had ‘recovered’ the appeal so as to make the determination himself.

The decision

On 8 April 2024 the Secretary of State issued his Decision Notice. The Planning Inspector had recommended dismissal and the Secretary of State agreed. So we are delighted that the appeal has been dismissed and permission has been refused.

The full Appeal Decision is available to download (the pdf document is 170 pages.)


Key factors cited in the decision include those relating to the Green Belt, heritage, and landscape. Specifically, the proposed development would:

  • Have a significant adverse effect upon both the spatial and visual qualities of openness of the Green Belt.
  • Constitute harmful encroachment into the countryside, contrary to one of the purposes of the Green Belt.
  • Be detrimental to the rural setting and picturesque views of several designated heritage assets e.g. Grade II* Hilfield Castle and Grade II Hilfield Lodge.
  • Cause a long term / semi-permanent adverse landscape effect.

We also particularly welcome the statement made by both the Planning Inspector and the Secretary of State that “the evidence regarding alternative sites is not sufficient to demonstrate that the proposed development has to be sited in the Green Belt.”

The decision makes clear that the provision of renewable energy weighs in favour of the proposal and carries substantial weight, as does biodiversity net gain contribution.

But the decision is also clear that, overall, the favourable considerations of the proposed development “do not clearly outweigh harm to the Green Belt and the other identified harms relating to impact on landscape character and harm to designated heritage assets.”

And therefore the Very Special Circumstances that would be needed to justify this development in the Green Belt do not exist.

Implications of this decision

We are concerned by the proliferation of proposals to build large-scale ground-mounted solar installations on greenfield sites throughout Hertfordshire. We hope that would-be solar farm brokers and developers take heed of this important decision at Aldenham, and redirect their efforts towards solar projects on under-utilised commercial, industrial, municipal and residential rooftops in the first instance.

See our main webpage on Solar to find out more and see our solar inventory of currently pending proposals.

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undulating landscape with green fields and trees
A small portion of the 130 hectare proposed solar farm development site at Aldenham CPRE Hertfordshire