Solar farm plans inside Greenbelt unanimously refused by councillors

How the solar panels would look in their first year of construction (credit Rushcliffe Borough Council)
By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter

Plans for a solar farm on Greenbelt land were unanimously refused by councillors who said the proposals were not appropriate for the countryside.

Rushcliffe Borough Council turned down the plans for the site between Gotham, East Leake and West Leake.

Applicant Renewable Energy Systems (RES) said the farm would produce electricity for 15,200 homes every year.

The application site totalled 16 fields – or 80.65 hectares.

But councillors said they did not approve of the development in the Green Belt at the Kingston Estate in Gotham.

The decision was made at a Rushcliffe Borough Council planning meeting on Thursday 9 March.

The council said 159 objections were received. 165 identical letters of support were also submitted, stating the development would help tackle climate change and would provide clean electricity.

Chair of the planning committee Councillor Richard Butler (Con) said: “I am certainly not against solar energy but I think it needs to be at the right place and the right scale”.

The applicant said the site would operate for 40 years, at which point it would be decommissioned and the land returned to its previous state.

The application said if approved, the site would continue to be used for sheep grazing.

Planners need to meet ‘Very Special Circumstances’ to approve applications in the Green Belt.

Cllr Carys Thomas (Ind), who represents the area, said the site was “scenic and elevated countryside with sweeping views”.

She said two huge solar farms had already been approved in the area.

She said: “It is in the green belt, where a solar farm is by definition inappropriate development.

“I ask you to refuse the application because the magnitude and nature of the proposals would have a major adverse impact on landscape, character and visual amenity.

“The wider environmental benefits of renewable energy generation does not outweigh the harm to the green belt.”

Cllr Jenny Murray (Lab) said: ” I agree with solar panels, I’ve got them on my roof.

“But that’s where they belong,  not in the beautiful countryside.”

Claire Chamberlain, the applicant’s agent, said: “The heatwaves and droughts experienced across the UK in 2022 were a stark reminder that the UK, along with the rest of the world are in a climate crisis.

“We are also in an unprecedented energy crisis which is driving the cost of living crisis.

“Solar farms are one of the most flexible and affordable ways to deliver on climate change and energy security targets.

“The solar farm could deliver direct economic benefits to the area by generating jobs during construction and decommissioning phases.”

But resident Peter Mostyn, objecting, said: “This solar application has aroused a lot of community opposition.

“This facility will not create anything like 49.9 megawatts of power because the sun doesn’t always shine in the UK.

“Yes we have an energy crisis but I am told that solar farms are not reducing our energy bills.

“This area is one of the most beautiful, open green belt spaces in Rushcliffe.

“It’s not just the physical benefits we obtain from using [the land] it’s the proven mental and emotional benefits of being in open countryside.

“A solar industry cannot provide these benefits.”

Councillors unanimously turned down the application.

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