Green light for solar farm near South Normanton
Councillors have approved plans for a solar farm near South Normanton – despite a squabble over how nearby residents would benefit from the scheme.
Amber Valley Council’s planning committee backed Anesco’s scheme from a 94-acre solar farm.
The farm, on low-grade grazing land west of South Normanton, would produce enough electricity each year to power nearly 5,000 homes and save nearly 4,500 tonnes in annual carbon emissions.
Councillors welcomed the proposal for renewable energy generation, but were split on how that would be provided, where, and what benefit people could expect.
Some members wished to see solar panels on buildings, brownfield industrial land and homes, instead of fields.
Meanwhile, some councillors also felt Anesco should volunteer money towards community projects – some of which may also benefit the environment.
However, council planners Sarah Pearce and Rae Gee said there was no policy in which the authority could ask the developer of a solar farm to give money for local projects.
The officials made clear the authority also cannot ask for financial contributions from a developer building an industrial warehouse and only has reason to ask for funds through housing applications – for affordable housing, health, education, roads and open space.
Coun Dave Wells said the agricultural land was of such low value that its use as a solar farm was ideal and may lead to improved biodiversity.
He also said putting panels on rooftops would not be enough on its own to reduce the borough’s carbon footprint, with a need for solar farm schemes and other renewable energy projects.
Coun Jack Brown, member for Ironville and Riddings, said: “The benefit is from 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide not going into the air. It is a great thing.”
However, Coun John Walker said the project would represent an ‘eyesore’.
Jezamine McHale, for Anesco, said the farm would help the council reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and uphold its climate emergency pledge declared in 2019.
She said: “There is an urgent need to reduce the amount of energy sourced from non-renewable sources.
“Solar farms are difficult to build, they require large land-take and are difficult to integrate into other developments.
“The council officers agree the site can accommodate this solar farm and there are significant public benefits from renewable energy and biodiversity enhancements.”