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Solar Energy Supplementary Planning Document consultation

We want your views on the County Durham Solar Energy Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which sets out guidance to ensure solar development takes place in suitable locations and is well designed.

A total of 25 responses were received to the initial phase of consultation and we are currently re-drafting the document.  We plan to consult again in early 2024 on the changes to the document following this round of consultation.


Solar energy has an important contribution to make to our target for the county to be net zero carbon by 2045.

The draft SPD sets guidance to ensure solar panels are placed, designed and of a scale which protects County Durham's unique landscape character, biodiversity, heritage assets and best and most versatile agricultural land. It provides guidance for three scales of solar development:

  • solar panels for householders
  • solar panels associated with business and community uses
  • commercial solar farms

It provides supplementary guidance to policies in the County Durham Plan, which was adopted in October 2020, in particular Policy 33 (Renewable and Low Carbon Energy).

What the SPD includes

The SPD provides detailed guidance to ensure panels and associated infrastructure are appropriately designed and located, to:

  • protect County Durham's Green Belt, unique landscape, biodiversity and heritage
  • protect soil resources and ensure solar developments allow for the continued agricultural use of farmland
  • protect people from the impact of noise, glint and glare from reflective materials
  • ensure surface water runoff and flood risk does not increase
  • protect Public Rights of Way and ensure any impacts on the road network are acceptable
  • ensure as soon as possible after solar farms stop operating, land is, as a minimum, restored to the condition it was in before the development, and any landscape or biodiversity enhancements are retained
  • ensure that after solar farms stop operating, the land is, as a minimum, restored to the condition it was in before the development, and any landscape or biodiversity enhancements are retained, as soon as possible

It also promotes best practice in public engagement and provides guidance on the approach to community benefit.

Have your say

The closing date for comments was 5.00pm on Sunday 9 July 2023.

What happens next

Responses to the consultation will be considered in drafting a revised version of the Solar Energy SPD. We will then consult again later in 2023. Any final amendments to the document will be considered and justified before completion and approval. Once approved, the SPD will be adopted and will be used to assess planning applications for solar development.

Contact us
Contact Spatial Policy
03000 263 967