Councillors have reiterated fears that a solar farm in the West Lindsey area will turn picturesque scenes into an “industrial eyesore” and reduce the agricultural value of the area. Lincolnshire County Council’s Planning and Regulation Committee discussed the West Burton Solar Project’s plans for an energy solar park covering three separate land parcels on land to the north of Saxilby and south of Marton.
The panels will cover approximately 900ha (approx. 2224 acres) and produce 480MW of energy, which will be transferred to the West Burton Substation via underground cables. The proposed site is primarily surrounded by arable farmland and woodland, with the nearest settlement being the village of Broxholme.
On Monday, officers presented a local impact report to the committee as part of the Development Consent Order application, which will go before the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero later this year. The officers’ report stated that the West Burton Energy Project would offer positive impacts in terms of producing clean renewable energy and contributing to the transition towards Net Zero.
It also has the potential to deliver significant biodiversity net gain through the creation of mitigation and enhancements proposed as part of the development. However, it noted: “There are some limited economic benefits arising from the potential creation of employment opportunities and increased spending on local services during the construction phase.
“However, these would be time-limited and therefore need to be balanced against the negative impacts identified.”
These included the negative impact on the landscape, character, and appearance of the area, the potential loss of Grade 3a land, impacts on public rights of way, the level of uncertainty around heritage impacts, and highways access to the site. Officers are awaiting the results of an agricultural specialist’s report to define the grade of farmland the solar panels would occupy.
West Lindsey and Lincolnshire County Councillor Tom Smith (Conservative) said the landscape character was a significant issue to consider. “This essentially turns what is, at present, a picturesque and typical Lincolnshire view of agricultural land into, let’s be frank, what is essentially an industrial eyesore that would span swathes of the district,” he said.
He feared the panels would also negatively impact the economy, both from a tourism and agricultural perspective. North Kesteven and Lincolnshire County Councillor Marianne Overton (Lincolnshire Independent) raised concerns about the loss of agricultural value and the potential impact on food production.
“One of the points made, and rightly so, is that this is renewable energy, but what is not always made so clear is what is lost at the same time,” she said.
“What food are we not producing, what are we not doing if this happens – it’s important to make that clear,” she added.
She also raised concerns about the risk of fire. The report will be submitted to the Secretary of State by November 26. Officers have been given delegated powers to amend the report, should the agricultural investigation be completed in time.
A further report will be brought back to the Planning Committee on December 4, allowing councillors to provide additional comments, which must be submitted by December 6.