Solar farms to go ahead but firms seek clarity

A solar farm similar to the one which is being proposed for Lowton
A solar farm similar to the one which is being proposed for Lowton
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GREEN energy firms say solar farms planned for the borough will go ahead but are calling for more clarity on the sector’s long-term future.

Four companies are currently intending to build the renewable energy sites in the borough, with three applications already submitted to Wigan Council and one yet to be sent to planners.

The local authority told Big60Million and BElectric its application for Dickinson’s Farm in Lowton did not have all the required information but a proposal for Mill Farm in Ashton has been approved and sites at Moss Farm in Glazebury and Cleworth Hall Farm in Tyldesley are currently pending.

However, the Government recently scrapped many of the subsidies available through the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy for placing solar farms on agricultural land.

Solar firms say while this will not impact the sites being planned more clarity is needed over the long-term viability of renewable energy.

Tony Wehby, director of Earthworm Energy which is behind the Glazebury application, said: “We see the sites currently in planning as great opportunities to decrease the use of carbon-burning fuel technology and move to a cleaner energy source.

“However, the Government has put a question mark over the viability of the future of green technology and energy in the UK and we are not looking for further opportunities until there is greater clarity from the Government.”

Giovanni Maruca, director of Solstice Renewables which is planning the Tyldesley solar farm, said: “Just before Christmas, 197 countries including the UK reached a historic agreement in Paris to take global action to tackle climate change.

“Cleworth Hall solar farm can play an important part in that commitment locally, not only by making a significant impact on local carbon reduction targets but offering other substantial benefits including an income to support the valuable work of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and the opportunity for local people to invest.

“While the change in government policy towards solar farms is unhelpful, we believe that if the planning application is approved by Wigan Council, as we expect, then working closely with local stakeholders including the Wildlife Trust the project should be built in the coming months.”

Wigan Council said the changes to the national subsidies and tariffs available for building solar farms would have no impact on the way applications are assessed by the planning committee.

Mike Worden, assistant director for planning and transport, said: “As with all planning applications, solar farm developments must each be considered against national and local planning policy and on their own merits having regard to material planning considerations, which include the potential impacts on the green belt and agricultural land, as well as their impact on neighbouring properties and in the wider landscape.

“National changes to the financial support previously available for solar developments, while clearly having an impact on the financial viability of such developments, are not material planning considerations.”

Announcing the subsidy alterations, which sees around £2m of grants a year being axed, environment secretary Liz Truss said she believed farmland should be reserved for growing food, large solar farms were an eyesore and the best place to put panels was on south-facing commercial rooftops.