Controversial plans for huge solar farm near Oakerthorpe thrown out after mass opposition

Councillors have rejected plans for a solar farm which would have stretched across hundreds of acres of open countryside.

By Eddie Bisknell
Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 8:41 am
Kronos Solar wanted to build a solar farm covering more than 260 acres between Alfreton, Shirland and Oakerthorpe.
Kronos Solar wanted to build a solar farm covering more than 260 acres between Alfreton, Shirland and Oakerthorpe.

The plans, from Kronos Solar, were rejected by Amber Valley Council’s planning board by a near-unanimous vote this week.

Councillors felt the plans, across fields from Alfreton to Shirland and Oakerthorpe, were simply too large and in the wrong place, preferring solar panels to be placed on industrial buildings and on brownfield land.

They felt the negative impact of the scheme on the landscape was too great and outweighed the benefit of the solar farm itself, which is said to have been capable of powering 11,500 homes – three times the number of households in Alfreton.

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Council officers also felt the same way due to the ‘magnitude’ of the scheme, which would have remained on the site for 40 years.

Residents, who submitted more than 750 objection letters, said they support plans for renewable energy generation’, but the site and scale of this proposal were unacceptable.

A spokesman for the developer said this had been a key missed opportunity to take words on climate change and turn them into action.

Four residents spoke against the plans at this week’s meeting.

John Glasby, chair of governors at Alfreton Park Special School, next to the site, said he was speaking on behalf of hundreds of children who would make use of the educational facility over the next 40 years.

He said the school was set to move to new £12 million premises next to its current site and he felt ‘betrayed by the possibility of an industrial installation’ next door.

Mr Glasby said the outdoor areas at the new site had been set up so children could have a few minutes to themselves in peace and quiet if something had triggered their emotions.

This, he said, would not be possible if there was the persistent hum of background noise from the solar farm. The council’s pollution officer said there was no evidence before them to say sound would prove intolerable.

Mr Glasby said: “There is nowhere in the world where a solar farm has been built so close to a school such as ours. The parents are right to be concerned.”

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Emergency

Will Savage, on behalf of Kronos, said the borough took the “bold” step in 2019 to declare a climate emergency but ‘words must become action’.

He said the scheme had been reduced by a quarter and the firm has offered to contribute £10,000 a year to local community projects,

Mr Savage said: “The harm is limited, temporary and, in our view, outweighed by the significant public benefit.”

He said rejecting the application risked ‘undermining’ the need to act on climate change and would mean the UK relies on others to make changes.

However, Coun Jack Brown said: “On TV you see it every day about climate change and it is not good, we need to cut the emissions down, we need to do it – but that piece of land is of better use for agriculture and walking land.

“We need to find spaces to put these things. They should be put on industrial buildings.”

Rae Gee, a council planning officer, said the strength of objections from key officials and the scale of the scheme tipped the balance towards refusal.

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