Plans approved for huge solar farm on outskirts of Hartlepool
Plans for a huge solar farm on the outskirts of Hartlepool have been given the green light by borough councillors.
This week, plans were presented to Hartlepool Borough Council’s Planning Committee for the development on a 62.9-hectare site off Worset Lane.
Submitted by CS UK Holdings III Ltd, the plans stated the solar farm would power around 14,500 homes annually, providing a “valuable contribution” towards tackling climate change.
In addition, the solar farm would have a planned lifespan of around 40 years and a maximum capacity of 49.99 megawatts.
Hartlepool Borough Council planners recommended the application for approval at a committee meeting on Wednesday, August 25.
While councillors on the committee supported the principle of development, Cllr Rob Cook asked why section 106 funds did not apply to the application.
Section 106 legal agreements, which are a standard part of the planning process, allow council planning authorities to secure funding from applicants to help mitigate the impact of developments.
In light of the renewable energy benefits of the solar farm, Hartlepool Borough Council’s planners said a view had been taken that the development would not meet the tests needed where the council could ask for section 106 contributions.
But Cllr Cook, who represents the Hart ward, said the stance represented a “lost opportunity” for the area.
“We have got to think of the people of this town and what benefits this town and any money that comes into this town under section 106 monies would benefit this town,” he said.
The Worset Lane site solar farm is planned for a group of agricultural fields in the open countryside situated immediately south of the A179 near to Hart village.
A planning, design and access statement, submitted in support of the application, said the development would have substantial benefits for the area.
This included “making a substantial contribution to renewable energy generation levels, in turn making a valuable contribution to tackling climate change.”
A representative for the applicant told the planning meeting that section 106 funds don’t normally apply to solar farms.
However, he confirmed that a financial contribution had been offered to the Hart Parish to help fund a local heritage project.
The development would also include tree and hedge planting and the provision of bird nest boxes and bat boxes to boost biodiversity.
During council consultation on the plans, Elwick Parish Council and Dalton Piercy Parish Council raised concerns about the potential “industrialisation” of rural land.
At the meeting to decide the plans this week, councillors were told that the solar farm development did not represent a change of use to industrial land.
The applicant’s representative added that the land would remain in agricultural use when the solar farm is operational, as it would be grazed by sheep to help manage grass and weeds.
Once the agreed operational period comes to an end, the solar farm equipment would be removed and the land returned to open space.
A report prepared by planners goes on to say: “The developer has requested a condition requiring decommissioning to allow for 41 years, to avoid the construction period limiting the time available for the generation ofelectricity.
“This is considered acceptable and such a condition is duly recommended.”
Following discussion, the solar farm plans won unanimous support from the planning committee.