Application made for massive solar energy farm on Bedford Borough border

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Solar power
Image for illustrative purposes

A 185-acre (75 hectares) 45MW solar farm, powering 15,000 homes a year, could soon be built between Bedford and Milton Keynes under new plans after the developer’s application was validated last week (12 October).

The proposals by Renewable Connections Developments Ltd would see the solar farm built at Snakes Meadow, West End, Stagsden, and the site would be in three different council areas.

The application said the scheme would allow Bedford Borough, Milton Keynes and Central Bedfordshire to “play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with local, national and international targets”.

Talk of the plans was first revealed in September last year.

Read: Plans to build massive solar power station at Stagsden gain momentum

The planning application is for:

“The construction, installation, operation and subsequent decommissioning of a renewable energy scheme comprising ground-mounted photovoltaic solar arrays together with substation compound, inverters, transformer station, cable trench, point of connection infrastructure, internal access track, landscaping, biodiversity measures, permissive footpath, security fencing, security measures, access improvements and ancillary infrastructure. At the end of decommissioning, the permissive footpath would be removed”

The applicants said that the solar farm will be screened from neighbours’ views through the strengthening/infilling of the existing hedgerow network and through the retention/ enhancement of existing tree groups.

Adding that it is proposed to plant around 300 new trees and 5,000 new shrubs as part of the solar farm’s Landscape Mitigation Plan.

“We will also be providing habitat piles/hibernacula and bat and bird boxes where feasible in order to provide additional nesting and overwintering habitats for local wildlife,” a spokesperson said.

Also, the Public Rights of Way which crosses the site will be retained and unaffected.

The maximum power that could be generated by the solar farm is 45MW (roughly 72,000MWh per year), which could power around 15,000 homes per year.

It will also displace approximately 862,000 tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuel sources over the course of its operational lifespan (or roughly 21,550 tonnes of CO2 per year).

The applicant said this is the equivalent to taking around 12,400 petrol or diesel cars off the road for a year, every year.

If the planning is approved the construction is expected to start late next year.

The site will be operational for a maximum period of 40 years, following which the site will be fully decommissioned and the land returned to its current status and use.

The application number is 21/02526/MAF and can be found by searching the planning section of Bedford Borough Council’s website.

The closing date for the consultation is 16 November 2021.

A protest group called West End Solar Farm Action Group has been formed and a petition on the Change.org website has been signed by 175 people.

The group is opposing “the industrial-sized solar farm, complete with high-security fencing, lighting, outbuildings and battery storage has been proposed in this rural residential area.”

The developers have created a website with details of the scheme.

During a public consultation in 2020, the site was referred to as “Cranfield Road Solar Farm”. The proposed development’s name was changed following community feedback received during the pre-submission consultation.

by John Guinn Local Democracy Reporter
and Bedford Independent’s Paul Hutchinson

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