Solar farm will blight countryside, say objectors

A mock up image of what the proposal will look like created by local resident Mrs Becky Wilson
A mock up image of what the proposal will look like created by local resident Mrs Becky Wilson

A mock up photograph showing fields surrounding the village of Gisburn covered with a sea of solar panels has been created by residents protesting about an application submitted to planning chiefs.

One of a group of residents, who live on Coal Pit Lane at Gisburn, created the photo and posted it on the social networking site Facebook to make more people aware of the proposals, which she and her neighbours argue, will mean a “huge chunk” of countryside is lost in the Ribble Valley.

The view as it stands at the moment

The view as it stands at the moment

Mrs Becky Wilson, of Coal Pit Lane, who is at pains to explain that the photo is her own creation and not to scale, said there are acres of buildings on industrial, commercial and retails parks that could accommodate the solar panels.

“They could also have all new houses incorporating them on their roofs, there’s agricultural buildings, schools and other public buildings, any building with a roof really.

“We will have lost a huge chunk of our beautiful landscape.”

The local artist added: “I have absolutely nothing against renewable energy, but this will blight the area. I don’t want it to set a precedent and open the floodgates for other similar applications in the Ribble Valley that would result in turning our green fields into a sea of black panels.” An application has been submitted to Ribble Valley Borough Council to install solar PV arrays on three agricultural fields, which are currently used for grazing, off Coal Pit Lane. The site is 500 metres south of the outskirts of Gisburn and is bisected by Coal Pit Lane.

I have absolutely nothing against renewable energy, but this will blight the area

Mrs Becky Wilson, local artist

The proposal was discussed by Gisburn Parish Council with members unanimously agreeing to oppose the plans on the grounds of its size, location and that it would be detrimental to the area. The applicant is London-based Solar Park Developments 5 Ltd, which is owned by Island Green Power UK, a solar energy company delivering projects in partnership with farmers and landowners. The site is owned by local farmer, R. Falshaw and Sons, of Shuttleworth Hall, Gisburn.

Mr Falshaw is chairman of Gisburn Parish Council and had to declare an interest leaving the parish council meeting when the proposal was discussed.

Parish councillor David Waters said: “If people have a view they must submit their views to the borough council so that the planning committee can take them into account.”

He added: “I am generally in favour of solar panels, but there are plenty of roof tops for them to be on and we would support that, but for such a massive development – it measures 11.26 hectares – which is the equivalent of 15 Wembley pitches – that’s a considerable size.”

A planning, design and access statement produced by ADAS UK Ltd on behalf of the application states: “The development is sited outside any landscape protection zone such as a Special Landscape Area or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it is also not within the Green Belt.”

The statement adds: “There are no views of the proposed development from Gisburn, including the Conservation Area.”

The solar PV array would generate renewable, carbon-free electricity with the panels connected to the electrical distribution grid.

The statement adds that the proposed solar array would generate approximately 19,000 MWh per annum, equivalent to the electricity requirements of around 1,500 households. This would result in a CO2 emission reduction of approximately 10,520 tonnes per annum.

As part of the proposals an existing public footpath will be enhanced to provide clearer access through the site and the fields containing the solar panels will be seeded with a wildflower and grass seed-mix in order to maximise the biodiversity value of the areas between the solar panels and up to the existing field margins. The planting of a species rich hedgerow is also proposed.

“At the end of the useful life of the facility, anticipated to be 25 years, it will be completely decommissioned and all associated equipment will be removed with minimal ground disturbance. The land can be quickly reverted back to agricultural use,” the statement explains.

“There would be a small economic benefit to the local economy through income to a local farm business and a wider benefit to the UK economy.”

There have been several planning applications for land to the east of the site at Shuttleworth Hall. In 2014, a plan to install and operate a single 50kw wind turbine at land at Shuttleworth Hall Farm, was refused.

A public consultation about the proposals was staged at Gisburn Festival Hall at the end of March. Despite numerous attempts the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times failed to contact R. Falshaw and Sons, before going to press.