Residents in Aldcliffe have banded together to raise concerns over plans for a 31 acre solar farm on green fields near their homes.
BE Renewables of Southport are proposing to install 18,600 solar panels on land between Stodday and Aldcliffe – which they have named Arna Wood Solar Farm – and a planning application is expected to be submitted to the city council within the next few weeks.
Janet and Kevan Walton, who have lived near the proposed site for 14 years, have joined forces with neighbours to object to the scheme, which they say would be out of place and have a massive impact on the surrounding countryside.
Mr Walton said: “This is a beautiful part of the Lancashire countryside, just one and a half miles from the centre of Lancaster.
“It is immediately adjacent to the River Lune Estuary, a Site of Special Scientific interest, a Ramsar site [wetlands of international importance, designated under the Ramsar Convention] and a Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area.
“The land is not flat, it is formed from a drumlin left after the last ice age and forms a prominent low hill running approximately north– south sloping off to the east and west.
“Because of this topography the solar panels will be highly visible from many vantage points around the villages of Aldcliffe and Stodday and from the Lune Estuary Coastal Path.
“No amount of landscaping or hedges will alleviate this blot on the landscape.
“It will not only affect the people living in the area but also spoil the enjoyment of the thousands of people who walk and cycle along the
coastal path and the country lanes of the area.
“The applicant states that the lifetime of the project is only 25 years and the whole installation will then be removed.
“At best it is likely to be replaced by a more modern installation, at worst it may then be classified as “brownfield” land and available for alternative development, most likely houses.
“Not only are we concerned about the local landscape, it is also the overall effect on the area.
“It is adjacent to the local sewage works and over the last 10-15 years this has continuously expanded and will no doubt continue to do so.
“Then there are the pylons from Heysham Power Station crossing the estuary nearby. The combined effect will be industrialisation of a large part of this beautiful countryside.
“If this is approved by the planning committee then it is difficult to see how they can object to further similar development, particularly to the north towards Aldcliffe and Lancaster.”
Graham Cass, who also lives close to the site, said: “The view is beautiful – to decimate the countryside with solar panels when there are so many roofs they can go on is crazy, not forgetting the fact that there is a shortage of food in the world and people need agricultural land to grow food.
“Why use it, in probably one of the wettest places in the world, to produce solar power?
“Thousands of people walk along the coastal path and 18,000 solar panels will look terrible.
“Let’s encourage people to put them on roofs. To use green fields beggars belief – when they are all gone it’ll be too late.”
Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw said: “I think everyone accepts the need for clean, green energy, however I am not convinced that this is the right scheme for our area.
“Clearly a scheme of this size – 34 acres – will have an enormous impact on local residents and the environment and I feel that this is totally inappropriate.
“I also find it rather ironic that there is a proposal to cover acres of green fields with glass and metal in the name of ‘saving the environment’.”
BE Renewables were unavailable for comment as the Guardian went to press.