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Public consultation held virtually for a proposed 173-acre solar farm near Grantham

A company has outlined its proposal for a 173-acre solar farm off Cliff Lane between Gonerby Moor and Marston, before taking questions from the public.

The consultation event, held virtually by Lightsource BP, began with a video that shed more light on the proposed development, before opening into a Q&A session.

The proposed Gonerby Moor solar installation aims to provide enough clean renewable energy to 14,375 homes, saving 14,600 tonnes of carbon emissions every year, the equivalent of taking 3,250 large family cars off the roads.

solar farm (26076462)
solar farm (26076462)

If the planning application, when submitted, goes through, Lightsource BP estimate that construction will take between five and six months, with an average of 15 HGVs delivering to the site per day. Construction traffic will use a new service track off the private road serving the Aviagen Turkeys Ltd site.

The company says all existing hedgerows and trees throughout the site will be retained. There will be new hedgerow planting on the north-western boundary and the northern boundary closest to Cliff Lane. Existing hedgerows will be maintained at a minimum height of 3m and all gaps will be filled.

Lightsource BP also addressed how the land used for the solar farm could still serve agricultural purposes.

It said: "Solar farms are not harmful to animals – all cabling is buried or secured out of reach, there’s no flood lighting and very little noise. This means that planned agricultural activity can be a carried out around the solar installation.

"Wide grassy avenues of between 3m and 7m are left between the rows of solar panels, to reduce shading and optimise the amount of sunlight each row of panels receives. This typically leaves 70 per cent of the solar farm as open grassland.

"Solar panels provide ideal weather protection for livestock. Livestock can shelter beneath the panels from adverse weather conditions (hot or cold) which provides comfort as well as cover from predators."

The Q&A session, as well as some FAQs, shed more light on the development.

Why is this project important?

Solar is a passive form of technology, generating electricity without creating any waste products or pollutants. This makes it an ideal energy source for the UK, as we work towards the 2025 targets for renewable energy and carbon emission reductions.

How will the equipment be protected?

The solar farm will be enclosed by a timber and wire agricultural fence about two metres in height, and CCTV cameras will monitor the boundary fence and area within the solar farm.

These will be specifically positioned to make sure they do not impinge on the privacy of residents.

How are the panels kept clean?

Generally, rainfall helps to keep the panels free of dust and dirt. Several times a year, the panels will be thoroughly cleaned using specialist equipment, to make sure the installation is in the best possible condition.

Do solar farms pose a health risk?

No - solar is a passive technology which doesn’t produce any harmful by-products. All electrical equipment we use meets the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive and are CE marked.

Will the solar farm cause traffic disruption?

Once the solar farm is in place it requires very little maintenance and approximately monthly visits in regular cars or 4x4s would cause no traffic disruption. Whilst the solar farm is being constructed, a traffic management plan will be put in place.

How did Lightsource BP choose the site?

Our site selection process is incredibly detailed and we do go through quite a rigorous process. There's four key criteria that we have when finding appropriate sites for solar. The first one is the site needs to be technically good, so we need large, flat fields. We need to have good daylight hours as well, and all of those technical aspects that make it a buildable site.

On top of that, there's the planning constraints that we need to consider, so you need a local or national designation over the site, whether the site has already been allocated for other uses and this is often why brown fields sites aren't developable for solar because they are already allocated for industrial or housing uses.

On top of that, there's ecological constraints. Green belt, we always shift out of those areas. We always look for sites that have low agricultural land value like this one here, the site is graded 3B, which is not considered a best and most versatile land.

Also, we need to have the grid capacity. There needs to be the availability within the network for the site to be able to connect into the national grid.

Finally, we need a willing landowner. So we need all of these components to come together to find a good site. Of the sites we assess for Lightsource BP, 90% of them don't make it to this stage of community consultation.

Community involvement is important to this project who have you consulted and do you intend set up a community benefit fund?

With interesting times that we find ourselves in with Covid-19, we've had to move everything online. So what we've done, is a consultation booklet which has been sent out to the local area with a basic overview of the site and a link to our project website so anyone can have a look at further information about the project and contact us through there.

We also had some consultants helping us and then tonight is a real chance to discuss with people what they think about the project. Any local feedback and we are looking to incorporate as much of that local knowledge as we can and we really appreciate that.

Yes we do offer a community benefit fund on our projects. We definitely want to be giving back to the local community, who have our developments in the area. This site is over two parish council's jurisdictions, so we are looking to have further conversations with both parish councils following tonight. Tonight is a kick-off point and we definitely want to keep the conversations going after this.

Will you use native species of trees and hedge to plant out the gaps?

Yes, all native species. The planting plan will include a full list of what exactly the species will be. The gaps in the hedgerow will be double staggered to fill that in properly and the small areas of new planting will also be native plants.

Where is the proposed connection to the grid?

The grid connection point, if your question is in terms of export, is towards Staythorpe, which is the location where will we will export power from the site.

Physically, the connection is going to equidistance between the two main land parcels of the site, so it's in the Northern section of it, towards the South West corner and below the existing overhead line.

When do you intend to submit the planning application and have you had initial discussions with the Council?

So we did a pre-application meeting last year. A walk to the site with the planning team and part of the policy team to discuss the proposal.

In terms of more general consultation, this is our kick-off here. Having the project website and doing tonight's event is really our starting point of having discussions with the community and we are definitely open to having further conversations, one on one conversations as well, given that times are a little bit different at the moment.

In terms of submission of the planning application, at the moment we are pulling together all of our environmental assessments. They're in the draft preliminary stages at the moment. We always try to come to these sort of events with our plans still open and flexible, so we can take in any local knowledge that we get from these sessions.

Following tonight's session, we will have further conversations with the community. The environmental assessments will continue and be refined and we will look to submit in November or December this year. That's the current target.

Lightsource BP also encourage those who were unable to join the online session but still had questions about the proposal to call 0333 200 0755 or write to its environmental planning and sustainability team at: Lightsource BP, 7th floor 33 Holborn, London E1CN 2HU.

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