Edinburgh based Locogen Consulting is in the initial stages of a planning application for a second solar farm on Squirrel Lane. The 21-hectare scheme will generate around 12Mw of electricity and on conventional calculations, that will supply around 2,800 homes and avoid around 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year. If approved, it will be located opposite the current scheme on good quality agricultural land. It could also destroy 0.5km of biodiverse hedgerow.
It is early days on this proposal. Locogen has taken advice from Shropshire planners on the scheme. It is currently asking whether an environmental impact statement (EIA) is required (21/04904/SCR). The company says and EIA is not required but that will be a decision for council planners.
Locogen is in discussions with Shropshire Council about providing EV charging points on the scheme. Presumably, these will be for contactor vehicles.
There will no opportunity for public comment until a planning application is lodged.
The existing solar farm was strongly opposed by residents and councillors but the scheme was approved by a planning inspector who took the view that it would be nearly invisible in the landscape. Yet it glares from viewpoints on Clee, High Vinnals and the Eco Park.
The new proposal is for the opposite side of Squirrel Lane from the current solar farm and extends over two fields. Locogen Consulting says:
“The two projects are however separately and visually contained by surrounding hedges and tree belts and would be unlikely to have any significant cumulative impacts from surrounding view points.”
That statement will need to be tested when a planning application is submitted as is it obvious that from more distant viewpoints, the two schemes will merge into one in a viewer’s eyes. The installation, according to Locogen, will improve soil quality and biodiversity. There is a logic to that argument as the panels will be up to 3 metres in height above the ground and the pasture beneath will be undisturbed and grazed by sheep. However, drainage of water from the panels will need scrutiny. Although the volume of rainwater will not increase, the panels have the potential to concentrate runoff and erode the clay soil creating gullies that could increase localised flooding during storm events.
The proposed scheme covers two fields. That means that a biodiverse hedge around 0.5km long will be lost. That can’t be acceptable.
Solar power, like wind, is intermittent. Will a new facility require extra battery storage unit in addition to the existing battery facility west of Ledwyche on Rock Farm?
Richard Huffer is Shropshire Councillor for Clee and his division includes the proposed solar farm site. He says:
“We need renewable energy to meet tackle the climate emergency. The question with all such facilities is where they are located.
“There is a difficult balance to strike between creating new facilities to generate power and protecting the countryside that is so important to Shropshire residents and the visitor economy.
“Planners and councils will need to look closely at that landscape impact of this proposal, particularly because it is so close to the AONB.
“If this is approved, there will need to be strict control over construction traffic. It must access the site via Henley and the A4117. There must be no construction traffic over Ledwyche bridge, which was badly damaged at the time of construction of the last solar farm.”