Solar farm rejected and plans for another deferred as energy firm looks at changes

A decision over controversial plans for a solar farm in South Shropshire has been deferred after the managing director of the green energy company that wants to build it said he would look at taking the better grade agricultural land out of the scheme.

Protestors against farmland at Greete being turned into a solar farm - actor, Tim Wallers, Helen Munro, left, on Joey and Maggie Anderson on Nelson
Protestors against farmland at Greete being turned into a solar farm - actor, Tim Wallers, Helen Munro, left, on Joey and Maggie Anderson on Nelson

Developer Bluefield wants to create a 54-hectare solar farm at Brick House Farm, Greete with a capacity of around 49.9 MW, generating enough renewable energy to meet the annual electricity needs of approximately 15,000 homes.

Objectors to the plans, many of whom protested at a site meeting before Tuesday's planning committee, include the impressionist Alistair McGowan and TV actor Tim Wallers.

Bluefield says the Greete site was chosen for its seclusion, relatively poor soil quality and access to the National Grid.

Its managing director, Jonathan Selwyn, spoke at the Southern Planning Committee. Jonathan Selwyn said that solar energy currently cost a ninth of the cost of gas, and that solar often provided up to 25 per cent of UK daytime electricity between June and August this year.

Addressing worries that solar farms are taking up agricultural land, he said that sheep were grazed at 40 per cent of Bluefield's 107 solar farms.

Councillor Claire Wild, asked Mr Selwyn if he would consider taking the 18-21 per cent of the better, Grade 2 agricultural land out of the application.

He said: "We would certainly consider it. I will check with the team and come back to you."

Actor Tim Wallers is one of those against the plans

The committee agreed to defer a decision to allow Bluefield to look at the site again.

Before the decision Councillor Andy Boddington said he was concerned that the development would be the industrialisation of classic country landscape.

Permission for a second planning application for a smaller solar farm, also near Ludlow, was refused at the meeting.

Councillors were told that the site was on land to the east of Squirrel Lane, Ledwyche.

Local residents who spoke at the meeting said the site was closed to South Shropshire's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and would be in clear view.

Agent for the developer, Ewan Hutchinson, said that there was an international energy crisis and said the UK had to look a more green energy.

However both Councillor Richard Huffer and Councillor Wild said that that was no justification for encroaching on food security by taking arable land out out of production.

Councillor Wild said that there should be guidance drawn up on the quality of land that could be used for solar farms and said any decision taken at the meeting could set a precedence for future applications.

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