Solar power farm plan raises concerns from neighbours

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Planning officers at North Kesteven District Council are recommending approval of a new solar power farm on land at Scopwick.

The 93ha site is in open countryside north east of Scopwick and west of the Lincoln to Sleaford railway line on land owned by the Blankney Estate.

The project, if approved by the council’s planning committee next Tuesday, would see the development of a solar photovoltaic power generating installation with 132kv substation, transformer/inverter stations, internal access tracks, security fencing and landscaping.

The site is divided into two areas, the western one taking up six fields and the eastern one four fields.

The western site lies about 120 metres away from the Braemar Park residential caravan park.

The solar farm would have a generating capacity of up to nearly 50MW and include around 200,000 frame-mounted panels all facing south and covering about half the overall site.

Construction would take 16-18 weeks, with all traffic coming off the A15 via the B1202 and the B1188.

The operational life 
of the solar farm is envisaged to be 30 years, after which 
the site would revert to farmland.

Local ward councillor Rob Kendrick has called for the plan to be considered by committee due to concerns of local residents about the visual impact and scale of the development and its impact upon the character and appearance of the countryside.

In particular, concern is raised regarding views along the public footpaths and views from Scopwick village, especially during winter months when trees and hedges will screen it less.

The key visual concerns relate primarily to the western site due to its proximity 
to the village and it is questioned whether the arrays could be re-sited to increase the separation from residential properties.

The location of the substation is also questioned with regard to whether this could be sited in a less visually prominent location to the northwest.

The parish council had no objections but asked for the substation to be repositioned for better visual screening.

The applicant has agreed to plant extra evergreen screening and lay permissive paths parallel to existing ones to afford better views for walkers.

Planning officers feel that, with conditions, the site should be permitted.

Also commenting on the plans, the National Farmers Union noted: “The farming community continues to face formidable challenges with increasing regulation, volatile markets and fluctuating farming returns.

“In response to these challenges farmers have had to consider the resources available to them and look at new ways of developing their businesses so that they can grow and remain competitive.

“This might include the need for modern agricultural buildings either to meet regulations or to achieve economies of scale and respond to changing market demand or could be something more innovative in order to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

“Our member is no exception; this application would allow our member to 
diversify this existing business to produce solar energy which will help to meet 
the energy requirements of the business and to make the business more resilient 
to energy price rises and to respond to the need to develop sustainable production 
methods.

“The development of the solar array will enable Blankney Estates to generate both income and energy to enable the farm to be sustainable.”

The poorer quality of land means there would be more income derived from the solar farm than that lost in decreased food production.