The life of a solar farm in West Devon looks set to be extended despite objections from the local parish council.

The existing solar farm in Willsland, approximately 1.4 miles west of Hatherleigh, is made up of over 13,000 panels covering five fields. 

Planning permission for the site was first granted in 2012 with the condition that it would be returned to open fields after 25 years. 

Owners, Quintas Energy UK Ltd, applied to West Devon Borough Council (WDBC) to have the period extended but Highampton Parish Council objected to the plans.

WDBC’s development management and licensing committee, on Tuesday 13 December, discussed the proposals and heard how a condition was placed on the development to remove the panels after 25 years because it coincided with the length of the feed-in tariff scheme. 

But a supporting statement from the developer stated the 25 year period could be extended as renewable installations have become viable without subsidies and such installations can last for much longer periods.

Quintas applied to extend the life of the solar farm to 40 years with the same removal and reinstatement obligations at the end of the period.

However, Highampton Parish Council objected to the proposal saying there was no public advantage to be gained from the removal of the condition so far in advance of the scheduled expiration date for the condition of 2036. 

The parish suggested conditions in 15 years might be very different from those of today and the land may be needed at that time. The parish council suggested reviewing the situation a year or two before the scheduled decommission date.  

The committee heard how there were no restrictions on when an extension can be applied for and that it is “not possible or desirable to predict what policies might apply in the future” and apply them now.

Although the proposal to extend the agreed must adhere to present policy, the council said it believed the application was compliant should be granted conditional approval.

The committee conditionally approved an extension of the solar farm site which may lead to it retaining its role until 2052.