Solar farm plans in Telford are turned down

A renewable energy company is “disappointed” after councillors voted unanimously to refuse its plans to build a solar farm west of Telford.

Greentech Services Ltd has applied for permission to place the panels, along with battery storage cabins and other equipment, on land west of New Works Lane, between Arleston and Lawley.

Telford and Wrekin Council planners acknowledged the environmental benefits the farm’s energy would bring throughout its 40-year lifespan, but noted that the 99-acre site falls within the Wrekin Forest Strategic Landscape Area and is close to the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Recommending refusal, the council's report said: “The harm arising from the proposals is considered to outweigh the benefits."

Planning committee member, Janice Jones, said: “I’m all for green energy, 100 per cent, but there is a balance and there are some areas we need to protect.”

Greentech, one of Europe’s largest solar farm planning, development and operation firms, released a statement shortly after the vote.

It said: “We are naturally disappointed at the decision taken by the planning committee.

“Greentech remains committed to working with the local community, Telford and Wrekin Council and other partners to develop renewable, sustainable energy solutions and to being a good neighbour.”

The statement said the farm, if approved, would have generated more than 28,500 megawatt-hours of electricity per year – “enough power for 8,600 households” – and would have created construction and maintenance jobs.

It added that proposals to extend the existing car park and create a new picnic area would have offered “a real opportunity to increase public access to the countryside".

Greentech senior planning manager, James Jenkinson, addressed the committee ahead of its vote, and said the company’s landscaping plan included quadrupling the length of hedgerows on the site and expanding animal habitats by a quarter.

“Solar farms are a benign development concept that make efficient use of the agricultural land resource by continuing to allow agriculture whilst also producing safe and reliable renewable energy,” he said.

He noted that the land is a restored opencast mine, which saw coal extraction between 2010 and 2013.

This, he said, had altered the landscape and left it “not of the same quality and with much less sense of seclusion and remoteness than the rest of the Strategic Landscape Area [SLA]”.

The planners’ report acknowledged that visual impact would be “limited, due to being relatively localised”, but added that the site received a large number of visitors, meaning that impact would be widely felt.

Councillor Jacqui Seymour, whose Wrockwardine ward includes the site, opposed the proposal.

“I am not opposed to solar energy,” she told the committee.

“I have panels on my own roof and two other solar farms within my ward. However, they have to be appropriately situated.

“This one would be set within the SLA against the background of the Wrekin, Ercall and AONB [Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty], could not be more inappropriate.”

Arleston councillor Angela McClements told members: “Whilst the New Works solar farm application is not actually in my ward, it will have a massive impact on the lives of many Arleston residents who use that area daily to walk, many with their dogs, through Steeraway, leading to New Works.

“It is an area many of my residents use for recreational purposes.

“We are lucky to have a glorious green space on our doorstep and more and more people are enjoying the countryside both for their health and mental wellbeing.”

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