Solar farm as big as 138 football pitches could be built south-east of Grantham, villagers fear

Roger Higginbotham and Jo Morris-Turner are ready for a fight against plans for a solar development.

Roger Higginbotham and Jo Morris-Turner are ready for a fight against plans for a solar development.

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A solar development the size of 138 football pitches could be built on farmland to the south-east of Grantham, fear people in nearby villages.

Neighbours became aware of the potential for a 97-hectare solar farm after consultancy firm RenPlan Consulting Ltd asked planning authority South Kesteven District Council whether it would need to carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) as part of any planning application for the site, bordered by Osgodby, Bitchfield and Ingoldsby.

Action groups were soon formed to fight such a proposal.

However, a director of RenPlan has criticised their actions as “scaremongering,” adding that no planning application has been submitted and may never be submitted.

Despite it being early days, the action groups are ensuring they are prepared. One group is called SCORCHIO (Solar Construction at Osgodby - Rural Communities and Homes In Opposition), led by Jo Morris-Turner and Roger Higginbotham, who live in Lenton. They have delivered leaflets to residents and held public meetings to inform their neighbours of what could appear near to their homes.

Mrs Morris-Turner said: “The scale will be truly breathtaking. The sea of panels, estimated to be somewhere in the order of 160,000, will industrialise a beautiful part of the southern uplands.”

She believes the impact on two ancient woodlands in the area would be severe, the loss of farmland detrimental and that the panels would destroy the land on which they sit, leaving it as wasteland when the 25-year life of the solar development is over.

And all this damage for “very little gain,” said Mr Higginbotham. He added: “Over the year, the energy they produce is likely to be a little as 10 per cent. And they can’t store the energy. We lose so much more than we gain.”

With all this potential for damage to the environmental, the couple has been left baffled by SKDC’s decision not to require an EIA. As such, they have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles asking him to overturn SKDC’s decision.

Mrs Morris-Turner said: “By scale alone, how can this not warrant an environmental impact assessment?”

SKDC’s head of development and growth Paul Thomas has defended the council’s actions. He said: “Following consideration of all relevant issues including the selection criteria set out in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations 2011, we determined that in the opinion of the council, it was not EIA development.

“It is acknowledged that the proposal would potentially have local landscape or visual impact. However, scale is only one of many factors that has to be taken into account and having regard to the selection criteria and the fact that it is not on or close to any sensitive sites (as defined in the EIA regulations) to the extent that it would affect them, it was considered that the principal impact would not be of such magnitude and complexity to warrant EIA.”

All this effort by action groups could be for nothing, believes Ben Lewis, director of RenPlan Cosultancy Ltd. He believes residents are jumping the gun. He said: “Something might be put together, maybe in a couple of months, in a year, in two years...but at this stage there’s absolutely nothing to the proposal. It’s all hearsay, it’s all scaremongering.

“A planning application could be very different in relation to the location of the site. Action groups have been set up to fight a non-existant proposal.”

Mr Lewis added that if a planning application were to be put together, public exhibitions would be held and people affected would be consulted.

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