Solar farm approved for former airfield near Market Drayton

A solar farm capable of powering 16,600 homes a year will be built at a disused airfield near Market Drayton, after the plans were approved by councillors.

A solar farm has been agreed for the site
A solar farm has been agreed for the site

Shropshire Council’s northern planning committee unanimously backed the proposals which relate to 52 hectares of land at the former airfield in Eaton Upon Tern.

The scheme had proven controversial among locals, with Stoke Upon Tern Parish Council, neighbouring Childs Ercall Parish Council and 19 members of the public submitting objections.

There was also a 38-name petition handed in to the council.

But not everyone was against the plans, with 18 letters of support from the public, along with the backing of the Shropshire Council’s climate change task force.

Two people spoke at the meeting urging the committee to refuse permission, with one describing the scheme as a “carbuncle on the landscape” and expressing concerns about contamination of the local water supply.

Planning agent Nick Williams of Berry’s, representing applicant Eaton Upon Tern Solar Ltd, told councillors the flat nature of the airfield site made it ideal for a solar farm.

He said the scheme would save 21,000 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year, and would provide a host of benefits including linking public footpaths and increasing biodiversity.

Councillor Mark Jones proposed approval of the application, saying it was necessary to increase the UK’s renewable energy generation capacity.

He also said he was satisfied from the site visit that the panels would be sufficiently screened from view.

Councillor Vince Hunt said: “We do have to start cutting down on our carbon and generating more electricity, sometimes unfortunately that is going to be through panels near villages and I completely understand why people don’t want them there.

“My experience though is that once they’re up and running people barely notice them.

“It’s a necessary evil I’m afraid, and as far as schemes go I don’t think this is a bad one. I think plenty of thought has gone into it and there is plenty of mitigation.”

Eaton Upon Tern Solar Ltd intends the 49 megawatt array of panels to be in place for up to 40 years, after which the land will be returned to agricultural use.

In documents submitted with the application, the company said it had made changes to the proposals to reflect the concerns of locals, including additional screening and amendments to the construction traffic routing to avoid the village of Childs Ercall.

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