The developer behind the Hapsford Solar Farm project says it is ‘confident’ that its renewable energy scheme will preserve the openness of the green belt.
Peel Energy has applied to Cheshire West and Chester Council to build a 5MW solar farm on North Cheshire Green Belt land south of junction 14 of the M56 in Hapsford.
Comprising 20,000 solar panels, it would generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of around 1,400 households.
Last week, the Chronicle reported councillors’ concerns that a brownfield site would be more appropriate.
Now Peel Energy want to clarify the process it has undertaken in selecting the Hapsford site.
Development manager James Hadfield said: “One of the strengths of this site is its proximity to a suitable electricity grid connection.
“We looked at a range of other sites nearby, including brownfield land at Ince, but they were ruled out for a variety of reasons all of which are documented in our planning application.
“We understand that green belt is very valuable to local people and we are confident that the openness of the green belt would be preserved by our plans.
“The panels are low to the ground and very well screened by hedgerows and tree belts which will be retained and improved as part of our proposal to enhance wildlife diversity at the site.”
Alternative sites within 3km of the electricity grid connection were assessed, including brownfield land at Ince, BICC works land, Heat Trace Limited’s roof top and previously developed land on Chester Road, Helsby.
But the study identified that these sites were not suitable for the solar farm, for a variety of reasons including size, proximity to sensitive receptors and access.
Peel Energy say the solar farm would also enhance biodiversity at the 11 hectare site by allowing species-rich grassland to establish beneath the solar panels.
Planning guidance discourages developers from using the best quality of agricultural land, which is known as Grade 1 land.
The site at Hapsford is classified as Grade 3b – a lower grade which guidance states can be suitable for solar development.
Mr Hadfield added that feedback from the open day Peel Energy held prior to the submission of the planning application was ‘overwhelmingly positive’ and that they are trying to contact the councillors to discuss the issues further.
“Feedback from statutory consultees has been constructive so far and overall we are pleased with progress,” he said.