South Holland District Council vows to fight for local community after throwing out Holbeach Bank solar farm plans
Defiant councillors have vowed to show ‘real leadership’ in the fight against solar farm plans on our prime agricultural land.
South Holland District Council threw out an application by AUK PE12 Ltd to put up a 48MW solar farm on ‘triple cropping’ farmland in the Holbeach Bank area during a meeting on Wednesday night – and vowed to draw a line in the sand for such developments.
Residents – armed with placards – had packed into the public gallery of the Spalding council chamber to watch the debate, which included a late amendment from the applicant to increase the lifespan of the development to 40 years.
There was an objection raised by Lincolnshire County Council, which has vowed to fight all developments of this type.
The importance of the country’s food security and South Holland’s important role in that was highlighted during discussions which unanimously saw members turning down on the application on the loss of prime agricultural land and the impact on the landscape.
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Coun Gary Taylor, deputy leader of the council, called for the committee to stand up to preserve the area’s wildlife and landscape and moved a recommendation to refuse the plans.
He said: “There is a place for this (development) and that is on a rooftop and not on the best producing farmland.
“These are not farms, these are large scale industrial developments in the countryside. They are not farms and I am refusing to use that word.
“This is no time to sit on the fence, it is time for real leadership from this council. We need to stand up for the local community.
“We need to take the challenge to the developers who are making huge profits at our expense. We need to preserve agricultural land, wildlife and landscape.”
Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Richard Hillam recognised the strength of local feeling against the application.
He said that it was unlikely that a more suitable location could be found for the development and argued that it would be a dramatic step towards the drive to being carbon neutral.
He said that tackling climate change targets needed people to ‘think bigger’ than roof tops.
Mr Hillam said: “The biggest medium to long-term risk to UK food production comes from climate change.”
Objector Brian Smith told the committee that the vast majority of Holbeach Marsh residents were opposed to the plan but also advised developers to ‘find somewhere else’ and suggested they look at the sites recommended by the Government, claiming there were 55 on the list.
He added: “This is an easy money making scheme which I predict will become a national scandal.”
Council leader and ward member Nick Worth, who thanked residents for their support and placards, said the loss of 200 acres for Hay farming would be ‘irreplaceable’ and could bring the future of the farm into question with subsequent job losses.
Coun Worth also highlighted the unique character of the area and said: “We need to grow more food not less.
“This will be the first of several solar farm applications coming to South Holland, some we will have a say on, some we won’t.
“If we say yes to this we will be saying yes to all of them.
“Do you want to be a dumping ground for solar panels?”
He expressed concerns that the farmland could become a ‘brownfield site’ in 40 years, once the solar farm has come to the end of its life.
Coun Worth also criticised the officers’ report – highlighting that the 55 objections lodged by residents were reduced to bullet points while the solar case was put in significant detail.
He added: “I would urge you to overturn this ridiculous recommendation.”
Coun Paul Redgate said a renewable energy policy was needed but could not support the application and felt the fact we do not have any low grade land should be a fact that is ‘held in high esteem’.
Coun Sophie Hutchinson said there was no justification to bring the development here and seconded the move to refuse the plan.
While Coun Jack Tyrrell questioned if the application would be approved following an appeal to the planning inspectorate but added: “No-one is going to benefit from this. We are not going to get cheap electricity. They are going to make a fortune and we are going to give up farmland.”
Coun Henry Bingham said Lincolnshire was becoming a dumping ground for solar panels, cables and pylons and spoke out against using high grade land for a solar farm.
He said that this was about ‘green money’ and benefitting investors over seas.
Coun Bryan Alcock said thousands of acres of food production had already been lost to biomass crops.
“We are already doing our bit in Lincolnshire, in particular South Holland, to try to ensure we have food security for the future,” he said.
He said that the sheep farming aspect of the planning application had puzzled him for a considerable time.
“I have spoken with a shepherd and he has explained to me one of the most unlikely places would be running up and down going between solar panels.”
Coun Allan Beal reported that he had been told that this land could produce three crops a year.
Officers said they could defend any appeal against the decision to refused due to the loss of high quality land and impact on the landscape.
Members were unanimous in their opposition to the scheme.
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