Controversial solar farm plans given green light

Sheep grazing under a solar farm similar to how the Arna Wood development will look.
Sheep grazing under a solar farm similar to how the Arna Wood development will look.

A new solar farm which could provide power for more than 1,600 homes is to be developed in south Lancaster.

The controversial plans for the scheme at Arna Wood Farm near Aldcliffe were given the go-ahead by city councillors on Monday.

A solar farm is to be built at Fanny House Farm in Heaton-with-Oxcliffe.

A solar farm is to be built at Fanny House Farm in Heaton-with-Oxcliffe.

The project is expected to provide power for 1,684 homes – more than half of the Scotforth West council ward it falls under.

Several residents spoke at the planning meeting both for and against the plans, which were submitted by BE Renewables of Southport.

Kevan Walton said the scheme – which will be in place for 25 years – would be “damaging and badly located.”

Michael Smith said the application failed to take into account traffic in the surrounding area, while Chris Norman said it would affect birds feeding in the area and needed a thorough ecogolical assessment.

However, a spokesman for Morecambe Bay Community Renewables said: “We would not get involved in a scheme that we thought was detrimental to the area. We think it’s a good scheme that is sympathetic to its site.”

Resident Lily Scott said: “Many local residents support this scheme and understand that it will have very little or no impact.”

said the plans had been refined in the last two years to reduce in size and visibility.

The solar panels will be positioned at a 20 degree angle and will be raised 0.6 metres from the ground to allow sheep to graze beneath.

Two metre high hedges will be grown to screen the site from the nearby coastal path.

Committee members unanimously approved the plans.

Coun Andrew Kay said: “It’s a question of balance. You can’t get away from the fact that there will be some impact but I think the benefits outweigh that.”

After the meeting, resident Graham Cass said it was “an absolute farce.”

He said: “The people who use this area will be horrified.”

Stodday resident Kevan Walton said: “I am obviously disappointed that the scheme has been approved and that the concerns of the local community have not been considered.

“We’d find the decision more acceptable had it not been based on misleading information, with blatant flaws that the planning officer ignored.

“It will be a 25 acre scar next to the Lune Estuary coastal path, currently enjoyed by a multitude of walkers and cyclists and we’re concerned that the mitigation proposed can’t compensate for the damage done to this beautiful landscape.

“What’s even more alarming, considering the potential damage to the landscape and ecology, is that city councillors on the planning committee didn’t think it was worth a site visit before reaching their decision.”

James Ayres, business development manager within BE Renewables, said the farm will save around 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year – equivalent to taking more than 600 cars off the road.

He said: “We are very pleased that the committee decided to follow the advice of planning officers and consultees to approve our application unanimously. There was also lots of local support for the scheme, with around 80 positive letters sent to the council.

“The scheme is in a good location, not on the best land for crop growing and will provide benefits for local ecology and biodiversity enhancements.

“We look forward to providing the opportunity for community investment in the project through our partnership with Morecambe Bay Community Renewables, as well as finding local good causes to benefit from the community fund available.

“We would like residents to continue to put forward their ideas for the community benefit fund.”

Mr Ayres added: “The solar farm is set to create approximately 50 jobs during the construction phase, with many of these jobs to be secured with local Lancashire businesses.

“Further employment opportunities will be created throughout the lifetime operation of the solar farm providing additional security and long-term sustainability to the area.”

Meanwhile, plans for a 35-year solar farm which will provide energy for almost 1,500 homes near Morecambe were also approved.

Novus Solar Development Ltd will build the scheme on land at Fanny House Farm in Oxcliffe Road, Heaton-with-Oxcliffe.

Proposals for a £5.2m solar farm on land near Middleton are also being drawn up by Lancaster City Council as part of its Energy Strategy.

The 15 hectare, 5MW solar farm is being proposed on part of 40 hectares of council owned land at the former ICI/Shell site near Middleton.