Decision Maker: Portfolio Holder for Planning
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: No
The Portfolio Holder for Planning will be asked to approve the draft Statement of Common Ground to be completed between Sunnica and the four affected local authorities, being West Suffolk Council, Suffolk County Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council.
The Statement of Common Ground will identify the matters which are agreed between the parties, matters currently the subject of negotiation and those matters that are not agreed.
1. The draft Statement of Common Ground (SoCG) be approved (A draft of which is included at Appendix 1 to Report number CAB/WS/23/012).
2. The Director (Planning and Growth), in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Planning, be authorised to make amendments to the draft Statement of Common Ground, prior to its submission into the Examination by the required deadline of 13 March 2023.
Sunnica Energy Farm was a scheme for the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) generating panels and on-site battery energy storage systems (BESS) across two sites within Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The proposal would include the infrastructure associated with the required connection to the national grid. The scheme was now situated across three sites (with Sunnica West B having been removed from the scheme by the Applicant):
a. Sunnica East Site A (situated partly in West Suffolk and partly in East Cambridgeshire).
b. Sunnica East Site B (located in West Suffolk).
c. Sunnica West Site A (located in East Cambridgeshire).
All locations would comprise ground mounted solar PV panel arrays, supporting electrical infrastructure and a BESS. A cable route (including interconnection between the Sites) would connect the parcels to the Burwell National Grid Substation.
The Statement of Common Ground (SoCG) was designed to clearly identify matters agreed, matters currently the subject of negotiation and those matters which were not agreed between the parties. The preparation of a SoCG in respect of this case had been an iterative process and the document reflected the nature of the on-going discussions between Sunnica and the four affected local authorities on the numerous technical issues that have arisen as a result of the application. These discussions have taken place in a variety of ways, including through a series of technical workshops and meetings, the written submissions that have been made by the Councils into the Examination and the Examination hearings.
As the Examination neared its conclusion it was necessary for the parties to review and finalise the SoCG in advance of the close of the Examination. The Examining Authority could then rely on the document for the purposes of reporting on the application to the Secretary of State.
Sunnica was in the process of preparing SoCGs with other interested parties including the affected Parish Councils, the Community Action Group and several other bodies such as statutory undertakers. The SoCG with the local authorities did not, therefore, reflect the position of other interested parties who may have a different view on a particular subject.
The current draft SoCG was attached to the report as Appendix 1. Sunnica were required to submit the final agreed version of the SoCG into the Examination on 13 March 2023. It was expected that the local authorities would continue to discuss technical matters with Sunnica up to the point of submission, therefore it was recommended that the Director (Planning and Growth) in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Planning, be authorised to make amendments to the draft SoCG prior to its submission into the Examination.
The SoCG was one of the key documents that the Examining Authority would take into account in its assessment of the application and its recommendation to the Secretary of State on whether Development Consent should be granted. The applicant was encouraged to seek agreement with the local authorities wherever possible and it was in the interests of the Council to ensure that its position at this stage of the Examination was clearly set out for the Examining Authority. The SoCG was the best way of achieving this.
Notwithstanding the above, the examination process was designed to thoroughly test the key issues that have arisen and the Council would have further opportunities to make its views known in the remaining written submissions for the Examination.
Publication date: 08/02/2023
Date of decision: 09/03/2023