The campaigners at the meeting last night as pictured by Local Democracy Reporter James Turner.

Plan for solar farm at Holbeach Bank unanimously rejected

Planners have unanimously rejected a bid to build a large solar farm at Holbeach Bank.

Officers had recommended South Holland District Council Planning Committee pass AUK Energy’s application for 80 hectares (197 acres) of ground-mounted solar panels and related infrastructure.

But there were 55 objections from members of the public.

Ward councillor and leader of the council Nick Worth criticised the report and described the officer’s recommendation as ‘unbelievable’ and ‘ridiculous’.

“This is not about nimbyism, but food and farming,” he said “The current tenants of this farm will lose the best part of 200 acres which is irreplaceable. It will question the future viability of that farm and lead to job losses.

“It’s 200 acres of the best and most versatile land and should be used for it.

“We should be producing more food, not less.

“If you say yes to this you’re opening us up to be a dumping ground for them all.

“In 40-years this site might be then classed as brownfield. Who knows what will happen in that time?”

Planning chair James Avery took the unusual step of reading out a statement from South Holland MP Sir John Hayes.

“To give this consent would contradict planning law,” said Mr Hayes, a former energy minister and who is also employed by an energy company. “The government wants to put large scale solar energy projects on previously developed or lower value land.

“We’re determined to ensure that land is protected for food security reasons and this green and pleasant land that we all are so proud to represent continues to be just that.”

Bryan Smith spoke on behalf of local residents stating it was ‘the most fertile land in the country’ while attacking the applicant.

“The vast majority are against this development.

“Mary Bass was once the owner and her will states her desire never to sell the land.

“I think she’d be horrified if it was taken out of farm use.

“There’s 53 other sites around the country.

“This easy money making scheme will spread like a cancer.

“Let’s stop this now and promote alternatives.”

Councillors unanimously voted to reject the proposal due to the loss of agricultural land.

Coun Bryan Alcock said: “I found myself in a dilemma because I support all forms of renewable energy expect to qualify it has to be in the right place, and this definitely isn’t in the right place.

“People need to look further than South Holland.”

Richardm Hilliam of AUK Energy said the application would power 14,500 homes, 35 per cent of the homes of South Holland: “We recognise the strong feeling the local community have, particularly with regards to the loss good agricultural land.

“It was chosen however as it has a grid connection point on site, no ecological landscape or historical designations and ideal conditions to maximise the benefits of solar energy.

“In South Holland just 11 hectares of brownfield, all of which is allocated to housing.

“We’re also asked why it can’t be rooftops can’t be used. The simple fact is scale.

“Only nine commercial rooftop schemes happen in South Holland delivering just four and a half megawatts.

“To meet climate change targets we need to think bigger.

“The importance of food security can not be underestimated, nor can the need to address climate change.

“Farming is becoming more financially competitive. Land owners are turning to alternative methods and in this case we’re growing solar energy.”

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