Shropshire Star

Opposition to solar farm defended as leaders say we can change ways to halt climate change

Telford & Wrekin Council's opposition to the Steeraway Solar Farm was defended at a county-wide climate crisis meeting.

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Zero Carbon Shropshire hosted a climate event and an AGM at University Centre, Shrewsbury

Zero Carbon Shropshire hosted a Question Time-type Q&A session on Wednesday evening at the University Centre, Shrewsbury to discus what can be done to address global warming as the World Meteorological Organisation warned that temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in the next five years.

Panel members were: South Shropshire MP Philip Dunne, chair of the government's Environment Audit Committee; Councillor Carolyn Healy Telford and Wrekin Council Cabinet Member for Climate Action, Green Spaces, Heritage and Leisure; Councillor Ian Nellins, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Climate Change, Environment and Transport at Shropshire Council; Councillor Julian Dean, chair of the Shrewsbury Town Council Climate Change Committee and Laurence Kinnersley, trustee, Shropshire Wildlife Trust. It was chaired by Jess Walton, a founder member and trustee of Generation Zero Carbon Shropshire.

Among the questions was one from Anthony Lowe who asked how with a new coal mine getting the go ahead, licences for off short gas and oil and, more locally, Shropshire Council ploughing ahead with the North West Relief Road and Telford and Wrekin opposing the Steerway Solar Farm, leaders could be encouraged to change.

Councillor Healy said Telford and Wrekin Council was not anti solar farms.

Councillor Carolyn Healy with panel Chair, Jess Walton

"We own our own solar farm and we are looking for a second site now," she said.

"We have had nice applications for solar farms and have approved seven of them. With Steerway we had to look at the protection of a special landscape and there are other places in the borough that are better sites."

Zero Carbon Shropshire:: Chair of Trustees Chris Deaves, Councillor Ian Nellins, Laurence Kinnersley from Shropshire Wildlife Trust, meeting chair Jess Walton and Councillor Julian Dean

For Shropshire Council, Councillor Nellins said he knew if was a controversial scheme but there had to be a balance.

"We want clean air in Shrewsbury and I can see both sides. We are working towards how we can minimise that carbon and we have to look at the positives as well."

On the national scheme Mr Dunne said there was an acceptance that changed needed to be done, the debate was how quickly it could be done.

"There is an extent to which the public will tolerate being told what to do. We have to take the public with us instead of impose things upon them, but we are not moving at pace," he said.

"We now produce more renewable energy than fossil fuel energy and we are widely regarded as the leader internationally in renewable energy."

But Councillor Dean said not enough was being done.

"We are still building homes with gas boilers in," he said.

MP Philip Dunne joined online

"It is crucial to win public over - they are in favour of having warm insulated homes and in favour of good public transport."

The audience also asked about onshore wind farms effectively banned in England.

Mr Dunne said that a change in the legislation could be on its way soon.

"The energy bill is coming to Parliament and I think we will see those planning barriers lifted."

Councillor Nellins said that while currently not allowed Shropshire Council was ready if there were changes in legislation.

"People don't want wind farms in their back yards. However, we need to have that reliable source of energy. Shropshire has already done the mapping and we are ready."

Mr Kinnersley said: "Sometimes conservationists have opposed wind power on shore. If they are sited in the wrong place they can be a threat to birds. but the biggest threat is climate change. Onshore wind is one of the biggest tools in our arsenal."

Colin Preston former chief executive of Shropshire Wildlife Trust said: "We have to practice the art of the impossible - we can make it happen. We can talk to businesses and we can build energy efficient homes. We can grow more trees and provide more sustainable wetlands, things that resonate with a lot of people in this county."