Plans for major solar farm next to M54 spark 170 objections

Plans to build a 135-acre solar farm on agricultural land have attracted more than 170 objections, with residents saying it will create an eyesore and have a damaging effect on wildlife.

Objecting to the plans for a solar farm are Jocelyn Lewis, centre, with Councillors Angela McClements and Joan Gorse
Objecting to the plans for a solar farm are Jocelyn Lewis, centre, with Councillors Angela McClements and Joan Gorse

The plans for Steeraway Farm, in Limekiln Lane, Wellington, have also sparked an objection from Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin.

Consultation on the proposals have now closed, and residents are waiting to hear the date for when they will go before Telford & Wrekin Council's planning committee.

Jocelyn Lewis, who lives in Limekiln Lane, said the development, which would be the size of 80 football fields and would include 77,000 solar panels, was totally out of keeping with the area.

She said an extensive wildlife survey on the area had identified 50 different bird species, including many that were on the RSPB's red-list of endangered birds.

"This also identified 14 mammal species, including muntjac and fallow deer, stoat, hare and badger," Mrs Lewis added.

Fields off Limekiln Lane, Wellington, Telford, next to the M54, where Steeraway solar farm is proposed to be built

"The development is on good quality farmland within the beautiful, protected Wrekin strategic landscape and adjacent to the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

"The site is surrounded by ancient woodlands and local wildlife sites and is criss-crossed with public rights of way."

Many of these were created as part of the 50-mile Telford T50 trail, to celebrate Telford's 50th anniversary in 2018, Mrs Lewis added.

She said Steeraway Farm comprised high-quality arable land that was badly needed for food production,

Mr Pritchard said while he supported the use of solar energy in principle, this was the wrong site for such a scheme.

Mark Pritchard

“The proposed solar farms would be very close to the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, adjacent to the ancient woodland of the Ercall, and within the Wrekin Forest Strategic Landscape," he said.

"Whilst I support solar farms, they must be in the right place and not be contrary to existing environmental protections.

"There is plenty of alternative land available in the borough for new solar farms. The applicant needs to look for a new location for the project and the council should reject this inappropriate development."

Councillors Angela McClements and Joan Gorse, who represent Arleston ward on the authority, have also objected to the plans.

"Steeraway is the gateway to an area of outstanding beauty for many Arleston residents, many of whom have contacted me raising their concerns about this application," said Councillor McClements.

"It will undoubtedly have a massive impact on the lives of many Arleston residents, who use Steeraway daily to walk, many with their dogs leading to Limekiln Woods and New Works."

She said the area offered "beautiful and amazing views full of woodland, flora and fauna", adding that it would have an "immeasurable impact" on the Wrekin and Limekiln Woods, which was a designated ancient woodland.

Other objections include Garry Nicholson of Telford & Wrekin Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Wellington Town Council, Little Wenlock Parish Council, and Shropshire Barn Owl Group.

The scheme has attracted 10 letters of support. Applicant R E Projects Development said the farm would create enough energy to power 11,000 homes, saving about 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year.

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