Plug pulled on huge solar farm
By Simon Hacker | 6th October 2023
Heated ongoing objections to a 25 hectare solar park near Gloucester – including a previous objection from the county's airport – look to have led the company behind the bid to withdraw its plans.
In the wake of a 2022 public consultation, applicant Sonnedix Bengrove Limited sought approval on the project at Bengrove Farm on Base Lane in Sandhurst, just north of Gloucester.
Sonnedix told Tewkesbury planners: "The application site is located on land between the settlements of Sandhurst and Twigworth in Gloucestershire ́s Severn Vale. The site consists of two arable fields bounded by established hedgerows and woodlands with a total area approximately 25.1 hectares, along with a further 16.5 hectares of land set aside for ecological benefits and around 1.3 hectares of existing farm access tracks."
The proposed solar farm would deliver a generating capacity of approximately 15MW using solar panels fixed to the ground by metal piles, with supporting infrastructure, said the company, which is a leading global renewable energy supplier.
"This translates into generation of approximately 20 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of clean renewable energy each year (or enough to power in excess of 5,700 homes) which will be supplied to nearby homes and businesses via a connection to the local electricity grid."
In the wake of Tewkesbury Borough Council declaring a climate emergency in 2019 - pledging to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 - the applicant hoped that the project would harness local support and council endorsement, but amid widespread criticism the scheme is now off - and the withdrawal echoes a related bid to build a battery energy storage facility at the same site last year.
In its public consultation , Sonnedix told interested parties that: "The solar farm is well contained within the existing fields and hedgerows. There is limited visibility from surrounding areas due to topography and existing vegetation. Any glimpsed views will be broken up by mature field boundary vegetation."
They added: "There will be significant biodiversity enhancements. All existing hedgerows and trees will be retained and protected while a section of new hedgerows will be planted. A lowland meadow will also be created to increase habitat diversity."
The panels would also not require any concrete footings, while sheep would be able to graze between and underneath the panels.
But objections included points raised by local neighbours over access, work traffic and visual intrusion, while claims were also put to planners that the land use would not help "supermarket shortages".
Gloucestershire Airport also stepped into the debate, claiming research into potential glint and glare was needed.
The airport told planners: "As it is apparent therefore that a thorough assessment of the potential glint and glare impacts of the proposal upon the safety of aircraft operations at and in the vicinity of Gloucestershire Airport has not been undertaken, Gloucestershire Airport Limited requests that such an assessment be required of the applicant. Until such time as a suitable assessment has been provided... Gloucestershire Airport Limited objects to the proposal."
Sonnedix subsequently submitted the required report and the airport withdrew its objection.
● Along with many authorities, Tewkesbury Borough Council has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 and the council had identified Bengrove Farm as the sole location with a landowner amenable to help reach this target.
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