Plans for 90-acre solar farm near Newport backed by council planning officers

A major solar farm covering nearly 90 acres is set to be approved by councillors.

Solar panels could be put up on the site if Telford & Wrekin Council approves the plans as recommended
Solar panels could be put up on the site if Telford & Wrekin Council approves the plans as recommended

Telford & Wrekin Council's planning committee will decide on the proposal, for land at Cheswell Grange Farm, Newport, at its meeting on Wednesday.

Council planning officers are recommending the scheme, which would last for 40 years, is given the go-ahead.

It comes after two other major solar farms have been turned down by the council – Steeraway and New Works.

A planning inspectorate appeal into the New Works application is scheduled for June 21.

The Cheswell Grange plan, called Twitch Hill Solar Farm, would cover 36 hectares and would generate around 19mw of electricity – enough to power 6,000 homes a year.

The application has attracted opposition from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, over its concerns about the impact on the countryside due to its proximity to the Weald Moors Strategic Landscape Area.

But the council's own assessment says it does not believe the effect will be significant.

Planning officers said: "Overall, the benefits arising from the proposals is considered to outweigh the harms and it is recommended that the application be approved."

Councillor Andrew Eade, who represents Church Aston and Lilleshall, is opposed to the plans and has requested they are put before the committee for a decision.

He said the focus should be on putting solar panels in industrial areas – rather than rural countryside.

He said: “Like all members of the local community, I fully understand the need for renewable energy and the part that solar panels have to play in providing future green and sustainable electricity.”

“However to build huge solar farms over productive and much needed farm land is not only short sighted but also pure folly, and with 60 per cent of our food already imported, such solar farms put at risk the very future of our national food production and security while at the same time also blighting our local countryside around the Wealdmoors Strategic Landscape area.”

He added: "A solution of placing such panels on the many acres of roofs on our industrial estates is a much more sustainable and sensible option.”

Setting out the plans on the project's website, Neil and Susanna Harley, who are behind the proposal, said it would "directly respond to the climate emergency and commitments declared by Lilleshall Parish and Telford and Wrekin Council."

The website says it would include "a host of landscape and biodiversity enhancements, including over 3.5km of new hedgerow, swathes of flower rich meadow amongst the proposed solar arrays and enhanced habitats for farmland and woodland bird species".

It adds: "The site has been carefully selected by Neil and Susanna as it forms one of the least suitable areas of agricultural land within their landholding, thus making it an ideal location to accommodate the solar farm whilst conserving the land of the highest arable quality."

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