Bedfordshire village 'bombarded' by renewable energy schemes - and life is becoming unbearable for some residents

Approved solar farm is the 11th application in the parish in recent years due to proximity to electicity substation

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 12:02 pm

A Bedfordshire village is facing an "increasing bombardment" from renewable energy projects because of its location close to an electricity substation.

Chalton has faced a "deluge of applications" in the past six years, Central Bedfordshire Council s development management committee heard.

A record for a parish of 11 such schemes have been received, with the latest agreed for nearby Chalgrave Manor Farm, off Luton Road, in Toddington.

Solar farm   (archive image)
Solar farm (archive image)

Local applicant R. Upchurch and Partners submitted full plans for a solar farm with 81,000 panels, a temporary building compound, connection to the electricity grid and CCTV cameras. The application site covers about 111 acres of agricultural land in the Green Belt.

Planning officer Peter Vosper said: "The area is the same as a previously approved application where the permission has now lapsed."

The site would generate sufficient electricity to power at least 9,000 average households, according to a report to the committee.

"This would avoid up to 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year," said the report.

"Its contribution to local and national carbon reduction targets is considered with other benefits of the scheme to clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt."

Keith Featherstone, who chairs Chalton Parish Council, said: "This is the 11th planning application for renewable energy we've received, which is a record for any parish, with 84 per cent on best and most versatile (BMV) agricultural land. Developments on BMV land must be suitably justified and no compelling evidence has been provided.

"CBC recognises solar farms on clay vales and hills could be highly intrusive. This one certainly is.

"The applicant says the solar farm cannot be seen and is easily hidden. How do you hide a solar farm with public rights of way running on all sides?" he asked.

"Your council has agreed 172.5 megawatts of renewable energy projects in Chalton and Toddington parishes."

Independent Toddington councillor Silvia Collins said: "Companies seek to build their facilities as close to substations as possible to make them viable.

"The proximity of Sundon substation to Chalton village means it's under continual and growing pressure to accommodate these installations.

"We've heard detail of the deluge of applications put in during the last six years, with connections now coming in from as far as Leighton Buzzard.

"It gives an idea of the impact it's having on a small rural village and its community.

"We've issues already with noise coming from transformers, which is making life unbearable for some of my residents. Nobody wants to stop progress and it's clear our needs for green energy are very real.

"But living with an increasing bombardment and uncertainty about where this will stop is absolutely dreadful for those residents. It's clear CBC needs an energy strategy as soon as possible."

Glyn Buckle representing the applicant said: "Aton Energy has a proven track record in the solar industry. The site at Chalgrave is ideally suited with undulating topography creating a natural bowl for the panels to be located.

"The hedgerow restricts views into the site and increased planting will ensure it's well screened from the wider landscape. The site has numerous overhead power lines and pylons which hinder modern farming methods.

"A wildflower meadow will be created to the north of the site, while the connection to the Sundon substation has been agreed.

"The site will need to be decommissioned after 35 years and the infrastructure removed, with the land restored to its original condition or better."

Councillors approved the plans with ten votes in favour and one against.

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