Shropshire Star

Major solar farm next to M54 opposed by local councillors

An “overwhelming” proposed solar farm, that would cover the equivalent area of 80 football pitches, is being opposed by town councillors.

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RE Projects Development Ltd and Steeraway Solar have applied to place 77,000 panels on land south of the M54 in Telford, either side of Limekiln Lane for a 40-year working life.

The applicants say it would save approximately 7,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually while still allowing grazing, but local resident Jocelyn Lewis said, under government guidelines, the need to provide green energy does not override “the concerns of local communities or the protection of local amenity.”

The site lies within the parish of Little Wenlock, but Wellington Town Council is also being consulted and its Planning Committee voted unanimously to object. Telford & Wrekin Council will make its decision at a later date.

A design statement submitted on the applicants’ behalf by planning agent Mandy Seedhouse, of Shrewsbury-based consultants Berrys, says: “The proposed 30-megawatt solar farm is expected to generate enough renewable energy per annum to power approximately 11,000 local households, based on average UK household electricity consumption.

“The site will be designed to enable continued agricultural use of the land in the form of grazing sheep or other small livestock.

“The scale of the proposed solar farm is related to the commercial requirements and the capacity of the grid to take the energy produced.”

The farm is planned for land either side of Limekiln Lane, south of the M54, pictured. Photo: Google

Mrs Lewis, of Limekiln Lane, told town councillors: “This beautiful area and its rights of way are explored not only by local residents but also people from much further afield.

“More people discovered Steeraway over the last 18 months of lockdowns and continue to use the area, with all the associated mental and physical health benefits.”

She noted that, as well as the panels, the plans included six transformer units, a substation and “thousands of metres of high-security fencing” on the 131-acre site. Mrs Lewis said this “industrial exploitation” would “have a devastating visual impact”.

“Government guidelines on renewables state that the need does not override environmental protections, the concerns of local communities or the protection of local amenity, particular in designated areas and near AONBs [Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty],” Mrs Lewis said.

“Telford and Wrekin covers 290 square kilometres. It has extensive commercial roof space that should be exploited, and substation capacity to do so.”

In October, Telford & Wrekin Council refused an application by Greentech Services Ltd for a smaller solar farm covering land west of New Works Lane, immediately east of the one proposed by RE Projects Development and Steerway Solar.

Arleston councillor Angela McClements, told the committee: “For me, and the residents I represent, Steeraway solar farm application is even more important, I feel.

“This solar farm site is massive, overwhelming.

“I’m not against solar farms, but they have to be situated in the right place and this is not one of them.

“The key recommendation from Telford and Wrekin officers to refuse the New Works application was ‘The proposals will result in a detrimental change to the quality of the Strategic Landscape, failing to preserve and enhance the character of the landscape around the Shropshire Hills AONB. This would result in significant harm to the character of the area and impact on the enjoyment of the area’.

“It absolutely applies to the Steeraway application as well.”