May 26, 2022 3.00 pm This story is over 18 months old

Solar farm plans ‘overcome issues’ but council environment boss still opposed

Two major proposals moving forward

Lincolnshire County Council’s environment boss has said his view on two major solar farm plans using ‘valuable agricultural land’ remains “unchanged” as they move on to the next stage.

The developers of the Gate Burton Energy Park near Gainsborough and the Mallard Pass Solar Farm to the south of the county have both announced a second round of consultation on their proposals.

Lincolnshire County Council’s executive member for Economy and Environment Councillor Colin Davie, however, said: “Since these plans were first mooted, the situation in Ukraine has highlighted the issue of our national food security.

“When it comes to determining these applications, the government needs to take a joined-up approach in deciding what land should be used to meet our energy needs, and what land is best placed to feed the nation. 

“Whilst our reaction to the national energy crisis needs to be swift, that should not mean losing valuable agricultural land, or going against the will of local communities.”

He said he was pleased residents were being consulted and that the scale and location of any development should be “appropriate and acceptable”.

“My opinion on these plans remains unchanged; I am in favour of renewable energy developments in the right place, and would actively encourage solar on all new buildings, and on brownfield land,” said Councillor Davies.

“However, I firmly believe the best use of Lincolnshire’s top-grade agricultural land is to produce the food that the nation needs.”

Low Carbon, which is behind the Gate Burton plans will launch a six-week consultation from June 22 to August 5 this year.

The scheme hopes to generate 500 megawatts of renewable electricity – enough to power more than 160,000 homes and avoid more than 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

Mike Rutgers, Low Carbon development director, said: “After carrying out an initial stage of consultation earlier this year we’ve continued to shape and refine our proposals for Gate Burton Energy Park in light of the issues raised as well as the findings from ongoing surveys and studies we’re undertaking.

“This stage of formal ‘statutory’ consultation will give people the chance to have their say on the finer detail for the project including where we’re proposing to locate equipment and deliver a connection into the national grid, as well as the measures we’re putting in place to minimise the impact of the project.”

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Mallard Pass campaigners have let their feelings be known on the proposed solar from. Pictured, from left, are Keith Busfield; Gareth Davies MP, Adrian Forsell, Sue Holloway, Helen Woolley, Charlotte Vernon and South Kesteven District Council leader and Lincolnshire County Councillor Kelham Cooke. | Image: Supplied

Mallard Pass, which crosses the border between Rutland and Stamford, would cover more than 2,000 acres of farmland and would generate enough power for 92,000 homes.

It has sparked opposition from local residents and the authorities – including Rutland MP Alicia Kearns.

However, the team behind the plans said more changes have been made, including creating residential “buffer zones”, a further 108 hectares of wildflower and tussock grassland and the introduction of 4.7 kilometres of new permissive paths.

They have also reduced the proposed area for panels and infrastructure by around 100 hectares.

A series of events are taking place throughout June and July for residents to take part in the company’s stage two statutory consultation.

Gary Tomey, managing director of Windel Energy – the company behind the plans – said: “The first quarter of 2022 has demonstrated our vulnerability to volatile energy prices and international energy markets and our urgent need for new energy generation infrastructure, particularly from clean, low-cost sources such as solar.

“It is our ambition to deliver a project that provides reliable and sustainable energy to the national grid while responding sensitively to the local environment, providing opportunities for surrounding communities, and offering enhancements to native wildlife and biodiversity.”

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