Next Tuesday, 30 November, Edinburgh based Locogen Consulting will be holding drop in session in Bitterley Village Hall from 2:00pm to 6:30pm. The company aims to build a solar farm on the opposite side of Squirrel Lane from the existing solar farm. This consultation comes ahead of a planning application, at which point members of the public will be able to submit formal comments.
Locogen has confirmed that no hedges will be lost and it has every intention of improving biodiversity. That will be an issue to be discussed further at the drop in session. Another issue will be construction traffic. Although there was a ban during the construction of the existing solar farm on traffic using Squirrel Lane between Sheet Road and Ledwyche Bridge, some construction traffic ignored that instruction. One HGV did significant damage to the historic bridge at the time the solar farm was being constructed.
The 21-hectare scheme will generate nearly 20GWh of electricity a year, enough to supply around 5,200 homes and avoid around 4,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year. If approved, it will be located opposite the existing scheme on good quality agricultural land.
There was concern initially that the scheme could lead to the loss of a valued hedgerow that divides the site. Locogen has confirmed that hedges all will be preserved:
“On the question of hedges, we have no intention of destroying this or any other hedges. We have already undertaken baseline environmental surveys to identify what exists on the site at present. These have been used to inform our design which as you will see, when the layout is available, is respectful of not only the hedge between the two fields but also those around the periphery. Furthermore, we will be planting some additional hedges at either end of the site to add to the existing containment and wildlife corridors that the current hedges provide.
“In addition to new hedging, we will also be including other environmental enhancements, mostly in the form of a wild flower meadow which we have been discussing with our ecologist and local bee keepers.“
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 an EIA is not required but Natural England says, “there are potential likely significant effects on statutorily designated nature conservation sites or landscapes.” It tells Shropshire Council: “We advise you to consider further whether an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required.” That is carefully coded language for saying the council should request an EIA. The danger for the council is that if does not insist on an EIA, any decision could be open to judicial review.