AN APPLICATION to reduce the parts of a hedgerow by 1m at a previously-rejected Abergavenny solar farm site will be forced to go back to the drawing board.

One of the 14 conditions imposed by Monmouthshire County Council to allow the Manor Farm development was a 3m high hedge around the site to shield the panels from wider view.

However, after the Llanvapley solar farm started operating in 2016, vehicles exiting the site have experienced difficulty in terms of visibility towards other road users.

Philip Thomas, the council’s development service manager, outlined condition six - the height of the hedgerow – which was discussed at the council’s planning committee meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Thomas said: “Since the park became operational, and the hedges allowed to grow, vehicles exiting have found that they are unable to gain adequate visibility to safely exit the access from the farm.

“Visibility from the north is actually a lot better than it is certainly to the south.”

Robin Ford, the applicant, said a section of the hedgerow could be reduced to 2m in height.

“Turning out of Manor Farm entrance, particularly to the south, with a tractor and trailer, has become dangerous because of zero visibility over the hedges,” said Mr Ford.

“The bonnet of a tractor is much further out into the road than that of a car before the driver can see anything approaching.

“Myself, or contractors, may only do this perhaps once or twice a week through the year but this is a risk I would rather reduce by asking you to grant this variation.”

Les Taylor, a resident near to the solar farm, objected to the plans, citing the lack of traffic passing along Firs Road.

“I live lower down the road and I am aware of the traffic flow,” he said.

“There is no safety issue at the junction to Manor Farm as the splay is very wide indeed.”

Mr Taylor said that “very little traffic actually uses the road” and it was “unusual” to meet traffic, with approximately five to 10 two-way movements per hour.

Cllr Sara Jones, the ward member for Llanover, said: “Why now does it warrant the concerns, if they weren’t there when the condition was imposed a couple of years ago,” she said.

“As one of the residents has highlighted, this isn’t an optional add-on - this is part and parcel of the planning consent being agreed."

“Whilst I am sympathetic to Mr Ford’s concerns, I think if there really is an issue here for highways safety, we need to look at options between the landowner and the solar farm tenants rather than amending a condition which is absolutely fundamental to allowing it be agreed in the very first place.”

Cllr Mat Feakins, the Drybridge ward member, put forward an idea, which could “satisfy both parties”.

“I think that we could either relocate the existing hedgerow to be near to the solar park fence line or plant a new hedge in the interior which would give the shielding for the neighbourhood,” he said.

“But it would also allow the reduction in height of the hedge alongside the roadway.

“To me that middle ground would satisfy both concerns.”

Cllr Ruth Edwards, the chairwoman of the planning committee, said: “It has been proposed and seconded then really that we don’t refuse it outright,” adding the amended application should only refer to the south side entrance of the solar farm.

“We will negotiate with the applicant and bring it back at the next meeting.”