I attended a meeting yesterday, along with others, with Bluefield Development. They are proposing a solar farm of 105 acres on the Water Hall farm.
I always have an open mind to all development proposals as I sometimes sit on the development control committee that approves or rejects such applications. The law requires such an open mind.
Yesterday was a great opportunity to discuss matters with the developer in order to shape the proposal to protect local people. After the meeting we went on to the public consultation which was held in the Sturmer village hall.
My starting point, when meeting with developers, is to adopt a healthy sceptical position. Developers are in business to make money not necessarily to do the best thing for communities. I have heard enough empty marketing promises to last a lifetime. So I was pleasantly surprised with the discussion that took place.
Solar farms often bring financial benefits to the villages they affect. Wixoe is a small village that doesn’t have or need a village hall or extensive sports fields. I suggested that some subsidy to all villagers to install solar panels on their roof might be a good idea and this was well received. I also raised the idea of creating a footpath around the site for walkers with information boards to explain the Roman settlement that was there and perhaps info on wildlife. Very much like they have at the solar farm at the Broxted solar farm by the Highpoint prison. We also proposed an additional passing point on the single track road.
Bluefield appeared very receptive to our ideas.
We raised a great many concerns which were all answered. One issue that had been raised with me, by a resident, was what happens when the 40 year lease runs out? Who pays for the decommissioning of the equipment. They reassured me that they put aside a sum of money for this purpose which would be enforced by a planning condition. Ultimately, the land owner would be required to revert the land back to what it is if Bluefield were not in existence.
I was concerned that security lighting might be a problem for residents but …….. there won’t be any. They will have infrared alarm systems.
It is intended that sheep will graze the 105 acres and bee hives will be located there. Interestingly, for those that farm sheep, they pay sheep farmers to graze their sheep on solar farms to keep the grass down.
The land is generally low grade but is likely to improve with 40 years of rest and sheep grazing it.
When the planning application come in everyone will be able to comment.