Controversial plans for huge solar farm set to be thrown out after mass opposition

A solar farm planned for a large area of fields is set to be rejected following mass opposition.

By Eddie Bisknell
Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 10:32 am

At a meeting next week, Amber Valley Council is recommended to reject proposals from Kronos Solar to build a solar farm covering more than 260 acres between Shirland, Oakerthorpe and Alfreton.

The farm is said to be capable of generating enough electricity to power 11,500 homes.

However, the authority’s officers have recommended the plans are refused, saying the ‘magnitude’ of the scheme would have a ‘significant’ impact on the countryside.

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Plans for a huge solar farm near Shirland and Oakerthorpe look set to be rejected.

In a report to councillors, they say the public benefit of the clean energy scheme does not outweigh its substantial negative impact.

It says: “The attractive unspoilt, green qualities of the site would be replaced with regimented rows of uniform solar panels mounted on metal frames.

“This over-utilitarian form of the development would erode the rural and pastoral character of these fields and diminish their contribution to the key landscape characteristics.”

They claim the development would have a ‘considerable urbanising impact on this area of open countryside’.

Nearly 700 objection letters have been submitted opposing the application, with four supporting the scheme.

Coun Valerie Thorpe, a borough councillor, wrote: “For the people of Alfreton and Oakerthorpe and other areas, this will have a devastating effect on the enjoyment of walks, replacing Alfreton’s only green space with 300 acres of solid solar panels.

“It is far too big, overpowering the area completely, changing the whole heritage and important landscape.”

Coun Trevor Ainsworth, county council chairman, said he found the scale of the proposal ‘monstrous’.

The county council has raised concerns of the impact of the scheme on pupils at the neighbouring special school – with a new £12 million school under construction.

Coun Ainsworth said: “The children attending this school have special needs and while using the outside areas of the school the children would get far more benefit overlooking rolling fields, rather than large sheets of glass as far as the eye can see.”

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The county council says it is of ‘considerable concern’ that ‘the sight of such an expanse of glass (photovoltaic panels) and the associated reflection could be very detrimental to the type of students at the school as their behaviour can be challenging at times and the calm environment is essential’.

James Owen, Kronos head of UK business development, said the 260-acre site is one of four currently under development by the firm around the UK.

He said the firm would provide funding to invest in public amenities.

A council report ahead of the meeting on December 6 said Kronos is willing to contribute £10,000 each year to ‘small-scale local projects of a recreational nature in the parishes in which the development is located’.

A Kronos spokesman said: “We are disappointed the council has recommended refusal of the plans, despite declaring a climate emergency and committing to net zero by 2030.

“Coming just weeks after COP26, a scheme such as this is of national importance. We hope the benefits of the proposals, to the climate emergency, our environment, and our climate, will be recognised by councillors when they make their decision.

“However, we need to be clear what this decision means. If these proposals do not come forward here, in these conditions, they will not come forward anywhere in the UK.

“Amber Valley Council has taken the important first step of recognising the climate change crisis, but this must be followed by action.

“If renewable energy projects receive this level of hostility right after the UK has made bold commitments on climate change, are we confident we are ready and willing to act? Or is it simply ‘greenwashing’?”

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