Aproject which could see the UK’s largest solar farm built in South Derbyshire will now be substantially reduced after a local farmer said that his family’s land could not be used for the project.
The Mallaber family have managed Park Farm, between Walton on Trent and Drakelow, for 20 years for grazing cattle and sheep. Their land was to provide 25 per cent of the space of the potential Oaklands solar farm project, overseen by BayWa r.e. UK Ltd and its subsidiary Oaklands Farm Solar Limited.
However, new documents show that the Mallaber family have pulled out of the project, which would cover 437 acres of land in total, about the size of 220 football pitches. It was expected to generate 163 megawatts of electricity per year, which is enough to power 40,000 homes, nearly all those in South Derbyshire.
The developers were approached for comment but have not responded as of this article’s publication.
Keith Mallaber, owner of the farmland, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Part of the family weren’t happy with solar. I think it is something that ought to go ahead, we need the energy. I fully support it but as a family we have chosen not to go ahead with it.”
A document from the Planning Inspectorate, which is overseeing the planning application due to its sheer scale and national significance, details that “no replacement land is being pursued”.
The document details that the project remains viable, despite the loss of a quarter of the proposed site, and that this actually provides a “benefit” due to the scheme now having “less interaction with the surrounds”.
Compulsory purchase of some patches of land may be required, the applicants have said, but they hope this will not be necessary.
It also says the proposed substation would now be located in a more central location within the site and that cabling for the grid connection at Drakelow and throughout the site would now all be underground.
The document also says construction routes for the scheme have been changed due to the 18-tonne weight limit on the Chetwynd Bridge.
Construction traffic would now be routed to the site via the planned Walton Bypass – which is not yet being built and just lost significant financial backing.
The document says alternative routes will be assessed “should the bypass not be delivered as anticipated”.
It says the applicant has committed to “avoiding HGV construction traffic through the small villages around the project, Walton on Trent and Rosliston”.
A new round of public consultation is due to be carried out, the document says, in light of the changes, but the Planning Inspectorate believes it may not be necessary.
The applicant now intends to submit a formal planning application in the second quarter of 2023 (April to June).
Its plan would also include an energy storage facility capable of storing 37.5 megawatts of electricity.
If approved, it would be double the size of the current largest solar farm in the UK – the Shotwick Solar Park in Flintshire, Wales, which has a capacity for 72.2 megawatts of electricity a year and covers 250 acres.
On its consultation website, the firm says: “This scheme represents an important contribution to meeting the UK’s legally binding target under the Climate Change Act 2008 to achieve a ‘net zero’ carbon account by 2050. Like other renewable energies, solar power represents a ‘clean’ source of renewable energy as it doesn’t release any harmful emissions or pollutants.
Read More: Farming family blocking giant solar power project in South Derbyshire