Agricultural Land Classification
A detailed ALC survey has been undertaken on site that has guided the site selection process to this stage. The ALC survey found that the red line included land parcels of Grade 3a and 3b quality.
Highways and Access
Access to the site will be gained via the Newport Pagnell Road (A422) which links Milton Keynes with Bedford. The A422 is a c. 8m wide, two-way highway that frequently accommodates agricultural vehicles of a size similar to the HGVs that will access the site during construction and occasional maintenance.
The site is in Flood Zone 1, as confirmed by the Environment Agency. Flood Zone 1 has the least risk of flooding.
In term of heritage assets, there are no Listed Buildings on site. In the wider locality, there are some Listed Buildings as shown on the below Environmental Designations Plan. This includes the Grade II listed building at West End Farm 0.15km to the east and Grade II and II* listed buildings within Astwood 1.04km to the north west of the site.
There are no Scheduled Ancient Monuments or World Heritage Sites situated within the parcel of land or its surrounds. There are no Conservation Areas within a 2km radius of the site.
Landscape and Visual Impact
In order to understand the potential visibility of the development, a Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) mapping terrain model has been provided. This provides an indication of the extent and pattern of visibility assuming a height of 15m for woodland and 8m for buildings. The ZTV does not account for individual hedgerows, minor changes in landform, or seasonal variations in leaf coverage. The ZTV model is therefore a ’worst case scenario’ based upon a maximum solar panel height of 3m above ground level. The actual extent and pattern visibility would be less than indicated on the ZTV.
Close proximity views of the proposed solar PV development would be visible within peripheral views when travelling along the A422 Newport Pagnell Road to the north of the site. The solar arrays would be set back from the northern boundary and hedgerow reinforcements would be planted to mitigate these views. The solar arrays would be set back from the nearest residential properties including No. 1 to 4 Ducksworth Cottages to the north east, Ducksworth Farm to the east, and West End Farm and Cottages to the south east of the site.
The site has been identified by a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) as within an area of ‘medium’ and ‘low’ sensitivity to solar PV development within the evidence base for the Milton Keynes and Central Bedfordshire Local Plans. At the detailed design stage, the developer will prepare the mitigation strategy, and this will include, amongst other things, an appropriate planting strategy to mitigate visual impact on the Public Rights of Way which cross the site, and the surrounds.
Ecology and Biodiversity
There are no environmental designations within the site’s boundaries or within a 3km radius of the site. There are no local environmental designations close to the site. Snakes’ Meadow Ancient Woodland is situated along the western boundary of the site. A suitable 15m buffer will be provided accordingly to avoid encroachment into the Root Protection Areas (RPAs) of these trees.
A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) has been carried out which identified that skylarks may be nesting within the arable fields. Breeding bird surveys are currently underway. Furthermore, approximately 8 ponds within 250m of the site were found with the potential to support Great Crested Newts. As a result, eDNA analysis of these ponds is currently underway. Badger setts were found within the woodland strip separating the southern field from the rest of the site. The badger setts will be retained and protected during the construction phase by erecting protection fencing, with a suitable buffer width of at least 10-20m (depending on the size and status of the sett). There will also be an undeveloped buffer of at least 15m from the woodland edge.
The proposed cabling route does not intercept any environmental designations.