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‘Death valley’ warning if Meridian’s 750MW solar farm plan for land between Spalding, Holbeach and Crowland is given the green light

Plans for the UK’s biggest solar development to be built on farmland along with Great Grid Upgrades will turn the county to “death valley”, a food expert has warned.

Professor Janet Bellamy told a packed meeting at Weston Hills Village Hall that the industrialisation of great swathes of the county’s best food-growing land put at significant risk its ability to continue to supply the country with fresh vegetables and contribute to food security.

“We will be sitting in death valley and committing genocide here,” said the associate professor of Digitalisation and Food Processing at the University of Lincoln.

Janet Bellamy, associate professor at the University of Lincoln, has spoken out about the impact of solar farms
Janet Bellamy, associate professor at the University of Lincoln, has spoken out about the impact of solar farms

Don’t let apathy be our enemy was the stark message delivered to the meeting called to discuss plans by Meridian Solar to build a 750 megawatt solar farm with battery storage and associated infrastructure on around 2,500 acres of farmland near Sutton St Edmunds, Gedney Hill, Fleet, Whaplode Drove, Shepeau Stow, The Westons, The Moultons, Crowland, Cowbit, Deeping St Nicholas and Holbeach Drove.

The key to this latest project is the proposed construction by National Grid of a new 35-acre sub-station at Weston Marsh, itself a part of a new proposed overhead pylon cable route for 87 miles through Lincolnshire from Grimsby to Walpole, in Norfolk.

Meridian Solar is reported to have stated that its choice of location was driven by an opportunity to connect to the grid via the new sub-station. It proposes making that connection with a second line of 50-metre-high pylons across almost seven-and-a-half miles of farmland.

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

Jane Thompson, coordinator of Meridian Action Group, told the meeting the scheme must not succeed because of public apathy. She urged that residents should make their objections known to Meridian, which is conducting its own non-statutory consultation ending on July 11. She also urged that people contact their parish, district and county councillors and their MP.

A main concern was the use of high-grade arable land, much of it grade 1 and double cropping and disruption caused over a two-year construction period.

Jane said the landowners were set to benefit to the tune of £2.4 million a year for the next 40 years, but using the land for solar panels - 1.8 million of them, each one at least ten feet tall - was a short-term solution using already outdated technology and at the cost of the shared environment. She queried the environmental credence when construction of pylons would have an enormous carbon footprint and those and the solar panels would most likely come from China, one of the biggest polluters on the planet.

Protestors, including the 4,000-strong No Pylons Lincolnshire group, say the offshore cables should connect to an integrated offshore grid, minimising infrastructure on land, and that when cables come ashore serious consideration should be given to cable ploughing and not overhead lines carried on ugly pylons.

From the floor residents shared their concerns. They said they had learned from attending Meridian consultation sessions that when the time came to remove the solar panels nothing below ground level would be removed, the land would never return to farming and houses would be built on it. Another said he was told chemicals would be used to clean the panels, but could not be told what those chemicals might be or what effect run-off would have on the land below the panels.

Farmer Jenny Pennington, whose land looks to be impacted by cabling from the Outer Dowsing wind farm off the Lincolnshire coast, Eastern Green Link cabling to bring power onshore from the North Sea, a new link to the Weston Marsh sub-station from battery storage at Spalding Power Station and cabling from the proposed Ossian floating offshore wind farm, said that for a long time they had felt they were on their own.

She said the key to it all was the plan for the new sub-station at Weston Marsh - “no sub-station at Weston Marsh, no projects,” she said.

The meeting was shocked to hear one speaker say he had been told by National Grid that none of the new power, from offshore or from new onshore infrastructure, was to be used in Lincolnshire. The county would simply be a conduit for moving the power to other parts of the country. Meridian’s newsletter claims: “Powering approximately 215,000 homes, roughly the equivalent of powering all the homes in South Holland, East Lindsey, North Kesteven and Lincoln combined.”

And South Holland District Council leader Nick Worth said the district would receive no benefit from business rates for the new infrastructure. He had said there was a shortage of power in the district, hampering development, but agreed the grid upgrade proposals would not cure that as it had been caused by a lack of investment in the local power distribution network.

Residents can express views to Meridian up to July 11 by:

Completing an online form at www.meridiansolarfarm.co.uk

Completing a hard copy of the form and posting to FREEPOST DOWNING MERIDIAN

Emailing comments to enquiries@meridiansolar.co.uk

Consultation documents are available at www.meridiansolarfarm.co.uk

Paper copies can be requested by calling freephone 0800 652 6120 or by emailing enquiries@meridiansolar.co.uk

Jane said: “Please don’t let this succeed through apathy - let Meridian know how you feel about this now.”

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