Shropshire Star

Plans for solar farms on green belt backed for approval by council officers

Two new solar farms could be built on Shropshire's green belt after plans were recommended for approval by councillors.

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Both solar farms are being backed for approval by the committee

Shropshire Council's Southern Planning Committee will consider both proposals next Tuesday.

The applications are for a site south of Hall Lane at Kemberton, near Shifnal, and land to the west of County Lane in Albrighton, and would cover a combined 50 hectares – around 80 football pitches.

The Albrighton proposal comes from Boultbee Brooks (Renewables County Lane) Ltd, and would be on a 30-hectare site, generating around 16 MW of electricity.

The Kemberton plan covers 19 hectares, and comes from Vattenfall, with a capacity for generating 22 MW of electricity.

Reports to be considered by the committee say that the plans would generate electricity for more than 10,000 homes – 5,300 from the Albrighton project, and 6,000 from the Kemberton scheme.

Both would have a construction time of six months and a lifespan of 40 years, after which the land would be reinstated.

The Albrighton proposal is the subject of six public objections, including from Albrighton Parish Council.

The council says that the site's location in the green belt means it should not be approved unless there are 'very special circumstances', which it claims have not been met.

They argue that it will affect views of the area for 40 years.

The Kemberton proposal is the subject of objections from both Kemberton and Sutton Maddock parish councils.

A comment from Kemberton Parish Council warns it would occupy "the majority of the undeveloped green space between Kemberton and Telford".

It adds: "Renewable energy projects are inappropriate development in the green belt and should only be accepted in very special circumstances. A general reliance on environmental benefits and an assumption that those benefits will exist is not enough, the benefits must outweigh the harm caused.

"The proposed development represents a merging of Telford and Kemberton and a significant encroachment into the countryside in conflict with Green Belt policy. The harm is substantial. There are no significant very special circumstances outlined in the application."

But Shropshire Council planning officers assessing both applications have recommended them for approval – specifically citing their environmental benefits.

A report assessing the Albrighton application concludes it is acceptable.

It states: "It is the view of officers that Very Special Circumstances have been demonstrated through the economic, social and environmental benefits of the development which when weighed against an objection to inappropriate development in the green belt, are sufficient to outweigh the harm caused, and it is recommended that planning permission is granted."

It says that the combined investment of £11.5million in the solar farm, a contribution of £485,000 towards the replacement of two grid transformers at the Albrighton substation, approximately £1.8million in business rates as well as community benefits currently in discussion, weigh in favour of the plan.

The officer adds that the creation of jobs, the amount of electricity and carbon output, are all reasons to approve the scheme – adding that the land would also be retained for agricultural use with livestock grazing between the panels.

A report on the Kemberton plan also recommends it for approval, ruling out the objection over its siting on green belt land.

It cites £44,000 of business rates a year, power for 6,000 homes and reduction in carbon, as well as job creation and around £1.8m over the lifetime of the project.

It states: "When the wider benefits of the proposals are taken into account as noted above it is considered that the proposals clearly meet the requirements for a very special circumstance."