Having been asked to advise a client on the prospects of obtaining planning permission for a 5 megawatt solar array on a site in Aberdeenshire, where we considered that a development of this nature should be supported in principle, we identified a number of matters (such as the potential visual impact of the solar panels, and the proximity of that to a listed building) that we thought would need to be looked at in more depth to ensure that all detailed policy requirements were satisfied in full, and to determine the scale of development that could ultimately be supported.
To reduce the risk to our client, we recommended making a pre-application enquiry to the Council prior to proceeding with a planning application, and were instructed to do so accordingly. Importantly, in making that submission on behalf of our client, we drew on experience of having recently obtained planning permission for the installation of solar panels elsewhere, and the factors taken into account in determining that application, and drafted the pre-application enquiry to elicit as positive and as comprehensive a response as possible.
This achieved the desired result, in that the response from the Council confirmed that the proposal would be supported in principle, and provided useful feedback from consultees on technical aspects of the proposed development that would need to be addressed, including information which they would expect to be submitted with an application. Our client therefore benefited from the pre-application enquiry process, allowing them to proceed with their application secure in the knowledge that this would be supported, provided that the technical issues highlighted in the pre-application response were addressed, and knowing what documentation needed to be submitted with the application to do this, making the application process smoother, quicker, and ultimately more cost-effective.