Anglo Renewables is seeking to build a 49-hectare solar farm on Rock Farm, south of Rocks Green. To give an idea of the scale of this proposal, if it was built in Ludlow it would stretch from New Road to Temeside and from the Castle to the Ludlow Mascall Centre.
The scheme will generate around 49.95MWp, enough to power around 9,000 homes when the sun shines. It will also have 12MW of energy storage to supply power when the sun doesn’t shine.
With the existing solar farm off Squirrel Lane and another planned by Locogen, we will probably have enough capacity from the 80 hectares (200 acres) of solar panels to power all the homes and businesses in Ludlow from solar energy alone on bright days.
The downside of Anglo Renewables scheme is that it will industrialise a rural landscape and will significantly damage views from the Titterstone Clee towards Ludlow. It could also disrupt long term expansion of the town east of the bypass.
The proposed installation is on the opposite side of Ledwyche Brook from the current solar installation. If this scheme and the application from Locogen are approved, Ludford parish will host around 80 hectares of solar panels.
The proposal is in its early stage. Anglo Renewables has asked Shropshire Council for a “screening option” – whether it needs to produce an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). A planning application is expected follow in the next few months.
In its request for a screening option, Harris Lamb on behalf of Anglo Renewables examined the theoretical visual impact of the scheme. It concluded:
The clearest open views of the site were from Titterstone Clee Hill where panoramic views of the wider Ludlow area were afforded. The Site forms a small part of this overall view and the southward orientation of the solar arrays away from this receptor would help minimise visual intrusion (glint/glare) from within the AONB.”
It is suggested that planting along the north edge of the site could minimise this.
I don’t agree. The view from the Titterstone Clee car park will be significantly affected. The land at Rock Farm slopes towards Ledwyche Brook. Below is my mock-up of the view from the car park and I don’t see how a solar installation of this scale can be screened.
Anglo Renewables will produce a Landscape Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) when it submits a planning application. These assessments tend to underestimate the impact of solar installation. The human eye is drawn to industrial scale structures in a verdant landscape and that rarely comes across in the assessments.
The soil on the site is Grade 2/3, very good quality agricultural land. Such best and most versatile land is given a degree of protection under paragraph 174 of the National Planning Policy Framework which seeks to direct greenfield development towards poorer quality land.
A 10 per cent gain in biodiversity is promised through sowing a grassland wildflower mix. There will be no loss of hedgerows or trees. Bird boxes will be installed and possibly bat boxes.
The site will be accessed from the A4117 through Rock Farm for construction and maintenance. There will be new splays at the A4117.
The site will have 13 CCTV cameras and be surrounded by a three metre high fence. The request for a screening option states: “Lighting will be required for security.” That worries me. Although light pollution can be minimised by shielding, the installation will be seen from miles away after dark. The lighting will also disrupt wildlife. I am not convinced by the need to for all night lighting. We will need to scrutinise this closely when the planning application is submitted.
None of the infrastructure will be in Flood Zones 2 and 3, the zones most prone to flooding. Run off from the solar panels, however, could increase flood risk in Lower Ledwyche. Anglo Renewables says an attenuation feature will be installed if necessary. Again, this will need to be scrutinised closely when the planning application is submitted.
The 12MW battery storage unit will be located at the south end of the site near the existing 20MW storage unit. The solar farm will be connected to the Squirrel Lane substation by an underground cable.
The installation will be in place for 40 years, after which it is expected to be returned to agricultural use. I very much doubt that will happen. We will still need renewable energy in 40 years’ time and I would expect the installation to be upgraded rather than scrapped.
The location of the site could create problems for future expansion of the town. I have been pretty much alone in arguing for a garden suburb east of the bypass. But if we had planned for that in 2014, we would have had stronger arguments against the housing approved on Foldgate Lane and Bromfield Road. Although the idea of indicating a future direction of growth never made it into the local plan, planning officers have ensured that the route for a future spine road is incorporated in the developments at Sheet Road and Rocks Green. The south west area of the solar farm would block a spine road. However, as expansion east of the bypass is not in the current or next local plan, it won’t be a reason for blocking this solar farm proposal or for reducing its size.
There will be no opportunity to comment on this proposal (22/00581/SCR) until a planning application is submitted.