Making our case on three large-scale solar farms in open countryside
Kronos Solar recently submitted applications to Amber Valley and North East Derbyshire district councils for huge solar farms we believe risk obliterating the local landscape character enjoyed so much by locals and visiting walkers.
We recently developed Derbyshire CPRE’s policy statement on renewable energy developments. It seemed important for us to have a clear evidence-based point of view on such developments particularly in light of many new applications and proposals springing up in Derbyshire and right across the country as the UK becomes increasingly serious about leadership on climate change mitigation and the reduction of carbon emissions.
Our policy makes clear our in-principle support for increased investment and contribution into renewable sources of energy, but we are equally adamant this does not have to involve any increased threat to our precious green spaces and open countryside. We simply cannot trash one environmental asset for the sake of another – that defeats the purpose! And our countryside, landscapes (and equitable access to them) are critical for our own wellbeing and that of nature and the planet.
In the recent weeks, we have been busy with our responses to proposed solar farm sites in countryside near Alfreton (Amber Valley), Shirland and Hasland (both North East Derbyshire). We visited the sites (in freezing cold weather!) to view them from the neighbouring roads and footpaths, collected background evidence and discussed the plans with the council’s Planning Officer.
It became clear from our research and the large number of objections from the local communities in question, that the Alfreton North/Shirland mega-site spanning across two district council areas is an unacceptable visual and amenity assault on what is distinctively appealing and accessible Derbyshire countryside, currently being enjoyed by many locals and visitors. The sites are crossed by a number of very popular public rights of way, and we note Peak and Northern Footpaths Society has also submitted a strong objection to the proposals.
The other site at Hasland, while mostly skirting the road and relatively well-screened by vegetation, also includes component areas on sloping green fields that we believe will unacceptably impinge on countryside.
Many local people state in their objections too that the applicant Kronos Solar – a German-based company – has neglected its obligation to robustly consult the community. Our view at CPRE Derbyshire is that such development applications need, at a minimum, realistic visualisations showing the impact of the development once built and a clear statement of community benefit.
Renewables developments are significant industrial installations which need very careful consideration of their siting and scale. The policy of brownfield first (previously developed and derelict land) should apply to them, just as it would for any other industrial buildings, even if the set up costs for solar companies may be somewhat higher when using previously built sites.
Special and distinctive countryside that’s highly valued by people does not need to be sacrificed and we will be on the look-out to oppose any renewables development that presents such a risk.