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MP for South Holland and the Deepings John Hayes calls for people to fight against plans for a solar farm in the Cowbit, Whaplode Drove and Holbeach Drove areas

A rallying cry has gone out to fight against a bid for a monster solar farm but developers say they are looking at a continued agricultural use for the site.

Downing Renewable Developments wants to build the Meridian Solar Farm with battery storage facility on several parcels of land around Cowbit, Whaplode Drove and Holbeach Drove areas – which it claims will power up to 215,000 homes.

But as the generating capacity is higher than 50MW, the firm is submitting a Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) – and the decision will be made by the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho. A public consultation is due in the spring.

A large solar farm is planned for the Cowbit area PHOTO: STOCK
A large solar farm is planned for the Cowbit area PHOTO: STOCK

This latest bid comes weeks after South Holland District Council rejected AUK PE13 Ltd’s application to build a 48MW on farmland near Holbeach Bank. There have also been concerns about solar farms near Stamford, Grantham and Rutland.

South Holland and the Deepings MP Sir John Hayes – a well-known opponent of solar farms on agricultural land – has vowed to tackle the minister on this issue but is calling for residents to fight against the proposal.

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He said: “This application has been deliberately pitched at a size that local people will have less of a say – and that is cynical and unreasonable.

“I will be intervening to speak to the Secretary of State directly this week on this application and will be clear that this is not wanted by local people and is unwelcome and unacceptable.

“I think the assumption is that Lincolnshire can take this development as nowhere else will. The message needs to go very loud and clear from our area that is not the case and we will fight this at every turn and every way we can.”

South Holland MP Sir John Hayes
South Holland MP Sir John Hayes

The locations for this facility could be spread over land south of Peak Hill, Cowbit; another on Aswick Grange, which runs from the A16 to Whaplode Drove; and five other parcels of land around Holbeach Drove.

Chairman of Cowbit Parish Council Trevor Tyrrell, who is speaking as an individual, said it was hard to make a comment on the application.

But he added: “I do hope that the community benefits will come to that people in neighbouring communities that are going to be affected and not the big towns or county.”

The firm says the land will be carefully evaluated to identify opportunities to provide a Biodiversity Net Gain – but this development has a long-term plan to deliver a Biodiversity Net Gain of at least 10%.

A spokesman for the district council said: “The application, by virtue of its scale, will be submitted directly to the Government for determination as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). South Holland District Council will be a consultee in this process. There are a number of stages of consultation throughout the process. The council will be responding to these accordingly in due course.”

A solar farm and batter facility could be built on parcels of land around Peak Hill, Whaplode Drove and Holbeach Drove PHOTO: Downing Renewable Developments
A solar farm and batter facility could be built on parcels of land around Peak Hill, Whaplode Drove and Holbeach Drove PHOTO: Downing Renewable Developments

A spokesman for the developer says they are looking at ways for a continued agricultural use for the site and that solar panels on rooftops would not generate enough energy.

She said: “As you may be aware, the UK Government published an Energy Security Strategy paper last year with the ambitious target of increasing the solar capacity in the UK from around 14GW to 70GW by 2035 which simply isn’t possible using rooftops alone. Using today’s technology if the entirety of the 70GW target was built upon agricultural land it would only encompass around 0.5 percent of the UK’s agricultural land resource.

“I also understand concerns more locally around the grade of the agricultural land, being largely designated as best and most versatile (BMV) in Lincolnshire. As part of the development, we will conduct an independent agricultural land classification survey to understand the present quality of the agricultural land which is currently ongoing. Initial results we have received indicate the soil quality is poorer than what was specified within the original land classification survey that was conducted in or before the 1980s.

“For lands that have undergone intensive farming, temporary developments such as renewable energy sites opposed to permanent developments such as housing provide an opportunity to reduce the intensity of farming activity allowing soils to recover organically over the project’s lifespan. We are also exploring opportunities for agrivoltaics which would combine the solar development with some form of continued agricultural use.”

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