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Farmland in Rutland and Lincolnshire could be compulsorily purchased to make way for Mallard Pass Solar Farm, examination hears





Land could be compulsorily purchased to make way for a solar farm.

Public hearings into the controversial plans for the Mallard Pass Solar Farm, which would straddle the Lincolnshire and Rutland border, continued last week before David Cliff, the examining inspector appointed by the secretary of state.

If approved, Mallard Pass, would take up a site measuring 906 hectares, with solar panels on 463 hectares, and would be the UK's largest solar farm. Covering a site of over 2,000 acres across 52 separate fields, it would be 10 times bigger than the largest existing solar plant in the country.

David Cliff, Planning Inspectorate Chief Examiner, at the Mallard Pass Solar Farm examination
David Cliff, Planning Inspectorate Chief Examiner, at the Mallard Pass Solar Farm examination

Because of the scale, it will be decided by the Planning Inspectorate rather than the local authorities.

Last week's hearings, held at Orton Hall Hotel in Peterborough, were the last where members of the public, interested parties, campaigners and the developer could put their case forward face-to-face.

On Tuesday, the examiner heard arguments for and against the compulsory land acquisitions and temporary possessions that are expected to happen if the project is approved.

Rutland MP Alicia Kearns demonstrates the proposed height of the panels at the Mallard Pass Solar Farm at Normanton Chuch
Rutland MP Alicia Kearns demonstrates the proposed height of the panels at the Mallard Pass Solar Farm at Normanton Chuch

The application is subject to rules that require government departments to look at whether surplus land would eventually be offered back to the former owner at the current market value, after the government has finished using it.

However, this led to a heated exchange over the ‘lifespan’ of the project which had originally been proposed at 40 years, but has subsequently been extended to 60 years.

Members of the Mallard Pass Action Group pointed out that the solar panels have, at best, a lifespan of between 25 and 30 years, after which they become less efficient.

For a project of 60 years, this would mean all 530,000 solar panels having to be removed and replaced at least once during the lifespan of the development.

The proposed Mallard Pass
The proposed Mallard Pass

It was also pointed out to the examiner that worldwide resources for crystalline silicon, the primary material in a solar cell, are rapidly diminishing, and that there may not be enough of the material left in 40 or 50 years’ time to make all the panels requiring refurbishment or replacing.

On Wednesday, arguments both for and against the effects the development will have on biodiversity and the environment were heard, as well concerns over the archaeology that may be discovered, disturbed, or possibly destroyed.

The enquiry heard that all large projects like this must take into account what are known as biodiversity net gain (BNG) decisions: a way of contributing to the recovery of nature while developing land, to make sure the habitat for wildlife is in a better state than it was before development.

BNG, which is measured as a positive or negative percentage, reflects the good or harm the development will have on the land

The Mallard Pass Action Group pointed out to the examiner that the application, if approved in its current form, would result in a -45 BNG score for the project overall, and a -29 BNG score in hedgerows lost alone.

Noise pollution and road disruption were also raised as concerns with an estimated 15,000 40ft containers needed just to transport the panels to the site.

The examiner also heard about the issues homeowners could face, including as ‘glint and glare’ from the panels, privacy worries over the CCTV, and the miles of 2m-high fencing surrounding the farm.

Further sessions this month and next will take place behind closed doors with only the interested parties attending.

Rutland MP, Alicia Kearns (Con), who opposes the project, has this week demonstrated the height of the solar panels in locations around the county.

Mrs Kearns said: “This is the reality of the height of the panels, the same panels the companies applying to build them say wouldn’t prevent us enjoying the ‘permissive footpaths’ they may include.”



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