Lancaster 70-acre solar farm could power 8k homes ‘but clashes with Forest of Bowland landscape’

A 70-acre solar energy farm proposed for farmland near Lancaster could generate green energy for almost 8,000 homes.

But its size and appearance would impact on the landscape, the Forest of Bowland area of outstanding natural beauty and land near the M6 earmarked for future new homes. The site is also not far from historic Lancaster landmarks and conservation areas around Lancaster Moor Hospital and Williamson Park.

These are some of the points raised by planning officers at Lancaster City Council about an application seeking permission for a solar panel farm at Moorside Farm, Grimeshaw Lane, Quernmore, by London-based Opdenergy UK 6 Ltd.

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Opdenergy’s application includes plans for buildings, CCTV, lighting, fencing and other infrastructure. City council planning officers say the solar farm could save over one million tonnes of carbon emissions going into the atmosphere over its 30-year life.

However, they are advising councillors to refuse the application for reasons including its large size, disruption to public rights of way and the feared visual impact to the rural area and the nearby Forest of Bowland area of outstanding natural beauty, which has similar status to national parks about conservation and protecting its characteristics.

Councillors on Lancaster City Council’s planning committee will consider the application on Monday, November 7, at Morecambe.

A planning report about the proposed location states: “The application relates to approximately 28 hectares (70 acres) of agricultural land east of the M6 motorway, just south of junction 34, and around two kilometres north-east of Lancaster city centre. The western boundary is approximately 1.2 kilometres long and is mostly shared with the M6 and its embankment

“The closest part of the area of outstanding natural beauty is mostly wooded and the boundary is between around 300 metres and 600 metres from the site’s eastern boundary.”

It adds: “Lancaster Moor conservation area is around 600 metres to the south-west, at its closest point, and this contains a number of listed buildings, including Lancaster Moor Hospital and also abuts the Williamson Park conservation area which includes the Aston Memorial, although this is around 1.5 kilometres from the site.”

Regarding the solar farm details, the report states: “Planning permission is sought for around 56,000 fixed photovoltaic panels mounted on steel frames in rows running east to west. The solar farm would be capable of generating up to 28MW of power, which is the equivalent of supplying 7,700 homes and would save 1,150,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over 30 years of operation.

“Amended plans have removed panels of some areas of the site and increased landscaping, in addition to proposing some changes to the infrastructure. However, the applicant says the alteration will not result in a decrease in the number of panels or total output from the solar farm. They will just be more closely spaced.”

Objections have been raised for planning policy reasons. The report states: “The site needs to be seen in relation to the area of outstanding natural beauty to the south and east but also its setting within the wider landscape and the potential impacts it may have to the north and west, in particular, the strategic housing allocation located immediately west of the M6.

“The proposal will contribute to the de-carbonisation of electric energy in the district and contribute to both local and national climate mitigation target, and it clearly supports the council’s climate change agenda. However, the proposal’s extent and the associated infrastructure will have significant visual and landscape impacts.”

No assessments have been done about the visual impact or glare from the solar panels on future housing areas, planning officers say. And no elevation drawings of solar farm building designs have been submitted. Also, the height of panels and CCTV camera poles are higher than at other schemes. and a metal fence is proposed rather than standard wooden post and wire fencing typical for farmland.

The planning report adds: “Lancaster City Council takes a positive and proactive approach to development proposals, in the interests of
delivering sustainable development. As part of this approach the council offers a pre-application service, aimed at positively influencing development proposals. Whilst the applicant has taken advantage of this
service prior to submission, the resulting proposal is unacceptable for the reasons set out.”

The planning committee meeting is at Morecambe Town Hall on Monday, November 7, starting at 10.30am.


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