Plan for huge new solar farm near Leeds would 'destroy heart of community' and 'beautiful contryside' - protesters

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A residents’ group has been set up to fight an energy firm’s plans for a major solar farm across 360 acres of countryside straddling the border of Wakefield and Kirklees.

Boom Power is about to submit an application to Wakefield Council to install solar panels in farmland in the Overton, Middlestown, New Hall and Grange Moor areas of the city.

The company has already been granted permission by Kirklees Council to build a solar farm on 210 acres of land at Low Farm, Flockton. A third application to access the National Grid on land near to Horbury Bridge has also been approved. The Save Sitlington group has been set up by residents in opposition to the latest scheme.

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They are being backed by local councillors and Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood, who has contacted Boom Power to highlight residents’ concerns. A spokesperson for Save Sitlington said: “This is productive farmland that needs to be protected in line with national and local policies in order to support the demand for food produced in the UK and not imported from abroad. This beautiful area of countryside is used on a daily basis by hundreds of walkers, ramblers, horse riders, dog walkers, cyclists and a range of community groups and visitors to the area.

Campaigners pictured who are fighting against the plans submitted to Wakefield Council.Campaigners pictured who are fighting against the plans submitted to Wakefield Council.
Campaigners pictured who are fighting against the plans submitted to Wakefield Council.

“Bridleways and paths cross the area with wide open views of Wakefield and surrounding areas. A solar farm on this scale would turn it into an industrial landscape overnight and destroy the very heart of our community.

“The use of heavy plant and machinery on a large scale in this historical mining area would be of great concern. It will create significant disruption to traffic and roadways that are already heavily congested around Horbury Bridge, Flockton and main routes to Huddersfield and Wakefield. The site will also impact on the beautiful areas immediately surrounding the National Coal Mining Museum of England, a major tourist attraction that attracts thousands of visitors every year.”

Boom Power says the project could generate enough power for around 14,900 family homes and will contribute to Wakefield Council’s ambition to become a carbon neutral authority by 2030.

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The company also said existing rights of way and footpaths will be retained, no trees or hedgerows will be removed to accommodate the solar farm and a public consultation process is ongoing.

The Save Sitlington spokesperson added: “Our community is not opposed to solar, or any renewable energy. Sustainable energy will play a key role in safeguarding our country’s future energy supplies. However, there are more suitable sites that have a far less detrimental impact on productive farmland, green belt and local communities, using existing industrial areas, disused airfields, car park canopies, rooftop locations or indeed various other alternative methods of energy production.”

Labour MP Mr Lightwood said: “A number of concerns about the proposals for this site have been raised with me by those living locally.

“Prior to any application being formally submitted, I have written to Boom Power directly to highlight these concerns with them and to ask for a comprehensive briefing, so that I can fully understand their plans.

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“We need to put communities at the heart of the planning process, strengthening the resources of our planning system and local democracy.

“However, this needs to be carefully balanced with the fact we must have alternative, sustainable forms of power generation to address the serious challenges posed by the climate crisis.

“There needs to be an integrated strategy locally to implement this.”

Ian Sanders, Conservative councillor for Wakefield Rural ward, said: “We have nothing against solar farms but they have to be in the right place.

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“The public needs to be consulted. The scheme should be advertised properly and go through the correct planning process.”

Mark Hogan, founder of Boom Power, said: “We are living through an energy security and climate crisis. Our proposals for New Hall solar farm follow Wakefield Council’s own declaration of a climate emergency as well as wider targets from Government to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Changing the way we get our energy has never been more important. We are currently consulting with residents to ensure that our proposals can deliver energy security whilst respecting the character of the area”

Sitlington Parish Council has called a public meeting to discuss the scheme. It will be held at the National Coal Mining Museum on Tuesday December 6, at 7pm. Boom Power has been invited to attend.