Update: This application was approved without modification.
The Southern Planning Committee is to consider the application for a huge solar farm at Rocks Green Farm, Rocks Green on 19 September. The application is for a ground mounted solar generating facility with a capacity of 40 megawatts (MW) and 12MW of battery energy storage to manage flow to the grid (22/05424/EIA). The £26 million installation will generate enough electricity to power 1,500 homes (Ludlow has around 5,000 households). The scheme will be in place for 40 years.
I will not be commenting on this application before the planning committee meets.
Planning officers describe the use as “temporary”. After 40 years, the solar farm will be decommissioned and returned to agricultural use. No solar farms have been decommissioned so far. That means it is unclear what the quality of the soil will be after disturbance and compaction during construction and dismantling.
Access to the site will be from the A4117 via Rock Farm.
Livestock will be grazed under the panels. The area will be sown with a species rich grass. The intention is to more than increase the biodiversity on the site by 59% with a 50% for biodiversity in hedgerows. Native trees will be planted to complement existing trees and hedges to screen the site from the historic Henley Hall. Most of existing edges and field margins will be retained. A small wetland will be created at the south west corner of the site alongside Ledwyche Brook. The design and access statement mentions creating a small orchard at the south end of the site but this is not shown on the plans.
The site will have fourteen inverter/transformer containers, each a little smaller than shipping containers. Seven shipping sized containers will be used for the battery storage unit at the south end of the site. The solar farm will be connected to the Squirrel Lane substation using an underground cable.
A 2.5m high security fence incorporating mammal gates will surround the site. Infrared CCTV will also surround the site. There will no night time lighting of the site.
In a detailed submission, Bitterley Parish Council has objected on the grounds of the close proximity to the Grade II* listed Henley Hall and Grade II registered garden and deer park, along with the impact to the setting of an ancient monument at Caynham Camp. The parish council is also concerned about the cumulative impact of the three solar farms on the rural and historic landscape. Ludford Parish Council makes similar objections. Both councils want a 300m buffer zone between the panels and Henley Hall. Shropshire Council had insisted on a 300m buffer for the existing Henley Solar Farm.
Historic England makes similar objections. Shropshire Council responded that Henley Hall and park would be screened from the hall by a tree belt. It added the park appears to have been designed to be principally appreciated from within and not to take advantage of longer views across the former parkland to the south and west. The council also warned that significant reduction in the area covered by the solar panels could make the scheme unviable.
The scheme will contribute about £80,000 a year in business rates.