I can’t recall a case across England where this has occurred before. The Bromfield solar farm has been approved without a single protest or objection. We have recently seen lively and well organised protests against solar farms at Whitton, Henley Hall, Neen Sollars, Acton Scott and Sheriffhales. Although the latter two had a good measure of local support, they also faced strong opposition.
It was different with the Bromfield solar farm. Save South Shropshire Countryside, which was established to oppose solar farms in the countryside, said it had no objection. The Campaign to Protect Rural England and others supported the scheme. There was not a single objection.
When this 5MW, 9.2 hectare scheme was first proposed in May 2014, I asked a number of questions. The promoter of the scheme listened carefully, made modifications and produced a sensible planning application that I could fully back.
The scheme is barely visible from the surrounding landscape, just from the railway line. Initial plans to send all the power to the grid were changed to supply 25% to the gravel works and Bromfield Food Centre. That’s a huge bonus because locally produced power used locally is far more efficient than pumping electricity long distances through the grid.
This scheme has been an exemplar from start to finish. Most of the site has previously been quarried for gravel. The soil quality is poor. There is a good biodiversity plan. Community engagement has been excellent.
The planning application has been approved under delegated powers. With no objections or controversy, I said it did not need to go to the South Planning Committee (15/00284/FUL).
I look forward to the Bromfield solar farm opening and powering local businesses. We need renewable energy but that need can’t override the need to protect the precious landscapes of south Shropshire. Bromfield shows how to get a renewable energy scheme right.
Update on other proposals
The second application for a solar farm at Whitton was rejected by the South Planning Committee last week.
The Henley Hall solar farm layout has been modified for a second time and reduced in size.