Shropshire Star

Solar farm near The Wrekin given go-ahead as government overrules council and inspector

A government minister has overruled a council and a planning inspector to give permission to a solar farm near The Wrekin.

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The solar farm at Wheat Leasows, Telford

The decision on the site at New Works Lane will now be taken into account in the final submissions made over another giant solar farm next door at Steeraway Farm.

A government junior minister, Lee Rowley MP, has made the decision to over rule planning inspector Mike Robins who had held a public inquiry into the New Works Lane plan last summer. It had also been refused by Telford & Wrekin Council but developer Greentech Invest appealed.

In a decision announced on Monday the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities agreed that the solar farm would cause "detrimental change to the strategic landscape" but that the benefits of the scheme would outweigh the harm.

"Given that Policy ER1 incorporates consideration of landscape harm, and that he has not found the landscape harm to be unacceptable, he considers that the appeal scheme is, on balance, in accordance with the development plan overall, says the decision letter.

"Weighing in favour of the proposal is the production of electricity which carries significant weight; the additional planting and community benefits which are afforded significant weight; and the economic benefits which are afforded limited weight.

"Weighing against the proposal is the harm to the landscape character and appearance of the area, harm to the special qualities of the Strategic Landscape, which is also a ‘valued landscape’ attracting protection, and the very limited harm to the setting of the AONB.

"Overall, the Secretary of State considers that the accordance with the development plan and the material considerations in this case indicate that permission should be granted."

In a statement posted on Facebook, campaigners at the Stop Steeraway and New Works Industrial Solar 'Farms' group said: "There are certainly a lot of angry people this evening, who are questioning the process of local democracy."

In a letter being sent to Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard the campaigners said: "As you know, the application gave rise to a significant number of objections.

"Such strong public objection should not be ignored."

In response to the decision, Mr Pritchard said: "I am disappointed by the decision. There is a place for solar in the UK's energy mix but not in or around AONB. I now hope Telford & Wrekin Borough Council will seek a higher legal view of the decision. I have already written to the Borough Council asking the Council to seek the High Court's opinion"

Telford & Wrekin Council has been contacted for comment.