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Bucks solar farm plan branded 'ugly and dangerous' by residents

Saturday, 23 September 2023 08:47

By Charlie Smith - Local Democracy Reporter

Dozens of residents have attacked plans for huge a solar farm in Buckinghamshire, branding it ‘ugly’ and ‘dangerous’.

Novus Renewable Services Limited wants to build ‘Redborough Farm Solar Farm’ on 113 hectares of agricultural land east of Aylesbury Road in Ledburn, near Leighton Buzzard.

An application for planning permission for the renewable energy project was submitted to Buckinghamshire Council last month and a consultation period is now active until October 12.

Proposals include installing solar panels, inverter units, substation buildings, a connection tower, transformer units, infra-red CCTV cameras and storage facilities.

Innova Group, which will own and run the solar farm, says it can be hooked up to the National Grid in 2024 and will generate enough electricity to power 11,887 homes.

However, Slapton Parish Council, Mentmore Parish Council and dozens of residents have objected to the solar farm over its potential harm to the environment and wildlife.

Neighbour Robin Beaman said: “The site would be highly visible, ugly and intrusive from all the surrounding areas, Mentmore, Wing and beyond in what is a conservation area and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

He added: “It will totally dominate and destroy the current landscape and open views across the countryside.

“Unmissable 3m high panels across a vast area of rural land, metal fencing and gates, CCTV cameras and masts are all totally incongruous with the current bucolic setting. It would be environmental vandalism on a huge scale if allowed.”

A planning statement for the solar farm promises a ‘very significant biodiversity net gain’ from the project.

It says that land between solar panels will be used for sheep grazing, while trees and shrubs will be planted, and fencing installed to keep deer off the site.

However, resident Laura Smethurst said she was concerned about solar farm’s impact on “hares, deer, red-legged partridge, pheasants, a wide variety of butterflies and bees”.

She added: “The planning proposal says that deer fences will be erected: currently deer range freely across this land and breed here – this will clearly restrict their habitat.”

Another resident Paul Millbank also raised concerns about light reflecting off the solar panels into pilots’ eyes, such as those at nearby Holmbeck Farm Airfield.

He said: “A local airstrip may have significant issues with sun reflection at certain times of the day too.”

Other residents fear construction traffic will endanger local people and exacerbate the poor condition of the area’s roads.

Mona Fawaz said: “More commercial / HGV traffic will further contribute to the poor road surface in Ledburn and increase the dangers for local residents / young families (including my own).”

Lucy Molloy, a senior highways development management officer for Buckinghamshire Council, has also recommended that planning permission be refused on road safety grounds.

She said: “The proposed access is at a point where visibility is substandard and would lead to danger and inconvenience to people using it and to highway users in general.”

Historic England has also said the solar farm would have ‘serious’ harm on the views from National Trust property and former Rothschild family home Ascott House, as well as other nearby Grade II listed buildings.

Although there is significant opposition to the project, Innova says: “The site has been carefully selected and designed through a detailed assessment process considering grid availability, heritage, landscape and amenity, ecology and environmental designations, access, and agricultural land quality.”

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