Solar farm plan set for approval

PUBLISHED: 09:41 21 March 2013 | UPDATED: 09:41 21 March 2013

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a solar farm are set to get the go-ahead despite objections from residents.

Renewable energy firm Push Energy wants to build the 50-acre farm, which would feature up to 25,000 solar panels, at Wisbridge Farm between Barkway and Reed.

Members of North Herts District Council’s planning committee are considering the application at their meeting today (Thursday) with plannings officers recommending that it be approved.

Fourteen letters of objection have been received from residents, while Barkway Parish Council also opposes the scheme, citing the visual impact it would have and the damage that would be caused during construction to a site which the parish council considers to be of “historic and archealogical importance.”

But in their report, the district council’s planning officer Anne McDonald said: “My own view is that the perceived impact and the fear of this impact is much greater than the actual impact that will be the reality on the ground.”

A detailed landscaping plan has been negotiated with the owner of the land, farmer Tom Duke, to help screen the panels.

The report adds: “It is noted that the landscaping will take at least five years to becaome fully established on the site. However, this is unavoidable and once established it will form an effective screen.”

Mr Duke is working in partnership with Push Energy on the plans.

He told the Crow in November: “I believe solar power to be the most reliable, low impact, proven form of renewable energy.

“It is a change of use but we need to strike a balance. Of course we need land to grow food too, but I believe this using this relatively small piece of land to power 1,400 houses is a fair trade-off.”

However, campaigner Clive Porter, who started a petition against the solar farm, said the farm would be a “blight on the landscape.”

“The country requires more growing land as opposed to less to cater for our increasing population,” he said.

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