Debate is heating up over solar site

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Plans to build a massive solar farm in LBO land – which would be the equivalent of 48 football pitches – are starting to spark controversy.

An awareness campaign has begun, alleging residents have not been given a full understanding of the scale of the new solar farm.

The planned site at Trinity Hall, Tilsworth, covers 81sq acres and would consist of 812,000 panels facing south, all mounted on a steel structure and would be no higher than around 5ft 6ins above ground level.

Campaigner David Overton said: “It may well be green and good in principle, but not of this size and as in-your-face as this site will be.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to has been horrified by the impact it will have and the lack of opportunity there has been for appropriate debate.

“People didn’t even know about it. Nobody has appropriately communicated this to the residents.”

Construction of the solar farm, due to be discussed by Central Beds Council on December 1, would take around five months.

Plans by Danish firm A. Rosen Invest ApS also make mention of two wind turbines, which Mr Overton believes could be hot on the heels of the solar farm if approved.

The application, submitted on the applicant’s behalf by agents Smiths Gore, says heavy goods vehicles would make around 300 trips to the site from Stanbridge Road outside of peak hours.

Although a letter was sent out to 320 residents on September 2 and an exhibition of the development took place during the day on Wednesday, October 1 at Stanbridge Hall, Mr Overton believes this was not adequate notice. Comments from residents have to made to Central Beds Council by this Thursday (November 6).

Just two miles away, another development for a solar farm at Leighton Road, Eggington has also recently been proposed. Combined together, the sites would make up the second largest solar development in the UK behind Wymeswold Airfield in Leicestershire, which covers 150 acres.

Mr Overton added: “When you combine this, it’s horrifying that it’s not had any advertising apart from a letter to 320 people.”

Smiths Gore consider that any impact on the land would be “wholly reversible and temporary in nature”.

In their report on the development, they say that the land could “swiftly revert to agricultural use at the end of the 25-year lifespan of the development”.

It was also proposed that hedging around the site, along with the low height of the panels themselves, would mitigate any aesthetic issues.

A cultural assessment of the development was also generally favourable.

In response to allegations that the proposals had not been advertised correctly, a Central Beds spokesman said: “We consulted widely on the proposed solar farm, sent letters to more than 300 neighbouring properties, put advertisements in the local press and also erected site notices in strategic places.

“There was also a public exhibition which was carried out by the applicant’s agent.

“We have received a substantial number of responses to the application and these will all be carefully read and taken into account before a decision is made.”

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