'Blot on the landscape' solar farm plan for edge of Hartlepool is rejected

A £20m solar farm plan which village residents feared would transform their countryside into an “industrial wasteland” has been refused by councillors.

Monday, 13th December 2021, 10:42 am
Updated Monday, 13th December 2021, 2:47 pm

But it met objections and has been refused by Durham Council’s planning committee.

Richard Irvine, from Sheraton with Hulam Parish Council, told the latest committee meeting that the 34-megawatt solar farm would be a “blot on the landscape”.

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Agricultural land at Sheraton off the A19 was intended for the 200-acre solar farm.

He said it would “deface the countryside” and was “more than any small community can reasonably be expected to tolerate”.

He said: “We are now faced with the possibility that this tranquil rural setting, which has provided us with solace and sanity, with its unbroken views of stunning countryside, is going to be devastated by the introduction of hundreds upon hundreds of solar panels, turning the entire area into one of an industrial wasteland.”

He said the village near Hartlepool already faced over £114m worth of nearby developments, including solar farms and a power station, adding: “We have reached capacity. We have had enough.

“The residents of Sheraton are not anti-solar. They do say, why oh why choose a beautiful rural setting which surrounds a vibrant community like Sheraton?

Councillor Rob Crute.

“The overwhelming majority of Sheraton residents do not want to see any part of this scheme developed in our back yard.”

There were 21 letters objecting to the solar farm plan, 13 in support.

Councillor Rob Crute said: “Taken as a whole this development will completely industrialise this beautiful unspoilt countryside.

“The community at large must be protected from this and all future thoughtless developments.

Plans for the solar farm have been rejected.

“For people living here, the countryside is the only amenity and to effectively consign residents to living in the middle of a solar power station is grossly unfair.”

Objector Richard McCabe said: “We refuse to be collateral damage in this misplaced and badly conceived planning application.

“I believe the scheme in its present form is wildly excessive.”

Chartered planner and renewable energy consultant Nicol Perryman said it pained her to object as she supported the principle of solar development.

But she added that the harm from the “visually intrusive” plans could not be outweighed by any benefits, continuing: “They simply cross a line.”

Environmental planner Richard Turner, from Lightsource BP, which already has permission for a similar-sized farm nearer Hesleden, said the “competitively priced, dependable, clean energy” would help reach renewable energy targets.

“The development will avoid 9,700 tonnes of carbon emissions a year… the equivalent of taking over 5,300 family-sized cars off the road.”

The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) objected because of the landscape impact and loss of agricultural land.

Planning officers recommended the scheme for approval, saying the harm to the landscape’s quality and character was “not unacceptable” when balanced against the benefits.

Senior planning officer Chris Shields said the 34MW of electrical energy from the farm would be enough to power 9,400 homes.

But councillors on the committee voted to refuse planning permission.

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