Solar farm consultation criticised for not being advertised

A virtual image of what the solar farm might look like

A virtual image of what the solar farm might look like - Credit: Archant

AN EVENT to showcase a mooted £11 million solar farm to residents in and around Royston has been criticised – because residents didn’t even know about it.

Renewable energy firm Lightsource is planning to construct the 22-hectare farm at Thrift Farm, near the A505 at Therfield. It would be big enough to provide power for just under 3,000 homes.

As previously reported by the Crow, Lightsource arranged an exhibition to show off its plans and answer any questions the public may have.

But the four hour show, which invited people to come and go, was visited by just 35 people according to the firm, with most people more puzzled as to why they hadn’t been informed.

Clive Close, from Therfield Parish Council, said: “Frankly, the parish council don’t have an opinion on it yet because we don’t know too much about it.

“Apparently there was a letter sent out informing us of this meeting but no one received it.”

Lightsource acknowledged the problem but insisted it was the only negative feedback they received.

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A spokesman said: “The only negative feedback received during the meeting was not about the project itself, but that some residents had not received the information pack, or notification letter which we had distributed ahead of the event.”

The meeting outlined how the solar farm will only occupy 30 per cent of the total acreage and will be designed to provide grazing for sheep beneath and between the row of panels.

Lightsource predicts the construction will take three months. Access into the site hasn’t yet been finalised.

Once the design has been finalised, the company will file for planning permission.

The firm’s business development director, Conor McGuigan, said: “We are extremely pleased that local residents take interest in our developments as we understand how personal these can be. As a direct result of this event, we are looking into developing an online community consultation portal so we can reach a wider audience.

“As I understand, there was some concern that our information packs did not reach everyone, so we are going to look into how we can improve this process further.

“We always try to address concerns as best we can and look to build relationships with our ‘potential’ long term neighbours.”

Therfield Parish Council says it will discuss the matter at their next meeting in May.

And North Herts District Council said it had received enquiries from the company.

Cllr Tom Brindley, portfolio holder for planning at the authority, said: “We have received an enquiry regarding the potential use of land in Therfield for a solar energy farm. We are currently offering guidance based on all relevant planning considerations.”