Telford solar farm plans set to be thrown out

Proposals for a solar farm to the west of Telford should be thrown out, planners have recommended.

Greentech Services Ltd has applied for permission to build the panels, along with battery storage cabins and other equipment, on 99 acres of land west of New Works Lane, between Arleston and Lawley.

In a report for the Telford and Wrekin Planning Committee, council officers acknowledged that the facility, if approved, would generate enough energy to power “8,650 typical homes” annually throughout its 40-year lifespan.

But, recommending refusal, they added that the proposals “fail to conserve and enhance” the landscape, noting that the site falls within the Wrekin Forest Strategic Landscape Area and is close to the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The committee will consider the application on Wednesday, October 20.

“The application site is located to the west of Dawley Road and New Works Lane, south of the M54 and within the parish of Little Wenlock,” planners wrote.

“The site forms part of a restored opencast mine and has a number of rights of way either within it or along its boundaries.”

The report noted that Greentech plans to place three-metre-high photovoltaic panels, along with six storage container, a substation and control cabin, gates and fencing and CCTV surveillance cameras on the site, which is currently “predominantly used for grazing”.

“It is also proposed to include new native hedgerow planting, the creation of a new wetland area and new tree and shrub planting,” planners added.

“In addition, it is proposed to extend the existing car park to more than double its size and create a new picnic area.

“New information boards explaining the recreational links to the AONB and wider area and explaining the site’s history would be provided.”

The report noted that a “large number” of objections have been received, including one from The Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard.

His letter “raises concerns about impacts on the AONB and strategic landscape”, calls the chosen site “inappropriate” and criticises the “limited community benefits”, it added.

Little Wenlock Parish Council registered no objection, but neighbouring Wellington Town Council and Lawley and Overdale Parish Council were also consulted and oppose the plans.

“Telford has multiple industrial estates and commercial buildings – put the panels on them,” said the town council’s objection.

The Lawley and Overdale Parish Council criticised “poor visibility splays, especially for HGVs” on the proposed road Dawley Road access point and noted that the Telford and Wrekin Local Plan identifies the site as a green space.

“The proposed development site is enjoyed as open space by a large number of people, wildlife and fauna, so to lose more green open space would be devastating to them and to the area,” it added.

However, Natural England did not object, finding the solar far would “not have significant adverse impacts on designated sites”. Its message does, however, “advise that the planning authority uses national and local policies, together with local landscape expertise and information, to determine the proposal”.

Explaining its recommendation, planning officers wrote: “Local and national planning policies support the development of renewable energy schemes, subject to there being no adverse harm.

“The proposal would result in the loss of around 40 hectares of farmland. This would be replaced by the potential to develop around 30 megawatts of renewable energy for a period of 40 years.

“This would be a positive benefit towards helping meet the climate change agenda.”

The visual impact would be “limited, due to being relatively localised”, the report added, but that limited impact would be experienced by a large number of people who visit the site.

“Overall, the harm arising from the proposals is considered to outweigh the benefits,” it said.

Last week a 150-acre solar farm was given permission to be built in Whitchurch.

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