Shropshire Star

Solar farm approved near Ludlow despite opposition over loss of farming land

A proposal for a solar farm has been approved by councillors despite concerns from local residents over the loss of agricultural land.

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The plans for Brick House Farm, at Greete, near Ludlow, had been submitted to Shropshire Council by Bluefield Renewable Developments.

The proposal is for 54 hectares of land at the farm and a decision on the scheme had been deferred by the council's South Planning Committee last month.

The delay was due to concerns over the loss of quality land, known as 'best and most versatile agricultural land' (BMV), as part of the scheme.

A revised plan, which was considered by the committee on Tuesday afternoon, saw several sections of land taken out of the proposal.

A report prepared by council planning officer Grahame French, said: "Bluefield has been able to remove a significant area of solar modules from four parcels of BMV land totalling 15.4 acres (six hectares).

"This leaves just 6.06 acres of Grade 3a land being required for solar due to remaining engineering and design constraints."

The report added: "The redesign means that 95 per cent of the solar farm is now on grade 3b land which is not BMV. Of the remaining BMV land which has been taken out of solar use, 15.4 acres are allocated as ‘Food Opportunity Areas’ with the remaining six acres allocated as Additional Biodiversity Enhancement Areas.

"The above calculations have been verified by the company’s retained independent agricultural consultant. The amendments have resulted in a loss of 5MW of the solar farm capacity, which, according to Bluefield would have provided enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1,500 homes.

"The proposals retain a significant capacity of 45MW which is sufficient to power 13,500 homes."

Objectors against the proposal spoke at the meeting, arguing the land is "far too productive" to be taken over with a solar farm.

They said the site had been a "very productive farm, on very productive land".

The criticisms of the plan were backed up by two councillors, Andy Boddington and Richard Huffer.

Counicllor Huffer said: "We have a duty to protect food security, not just for the UK but a moral duty globally."

He said he believed approval for the plan could see it going to judicial review, adding: "Don't take the easy option. This council needs to work harder to ensure we do reach the targets set within our climate emergency but this is not the location."

Councillor Boddington said he was also concerned about the impact of the development on the area's small local roads, as well as rights of way footpaths.

Questions were also raised over why an environmental impact assessment had not been carried out for the proposal, with smaller solar farm schemes having been subject to the requirement.

Jonathan Selwyn, managing director of Bluefield, spoke to the committee saying the country needed to get back to being self sufficient in terms of energy production.

Two motions were put forward following a discussion over the plan, with one for, and one against the application.

The committee voted nine to two in favour of approving the plans.