Council unveils proposal for £5m solar energy park in the Green Belt at Pucklechurch

leigh farmSouth Gloucestershire Council is “investigating the potential” of building a £5m solar energy scheme on 34 acres of Green Belt land near the M4.

It has secured a grid connection offer from Western Power which would allow it to build the 5MW scheme to produce enough renewable electricity to supply the equivalent of that used by 81% of all homes in the village.

It would be at Leigh Farm, one of the council’s tenanted smallholdings, in two fields to the north of the M4, next to Westerleigh Road.

The scheme, for which there would be financial support from the Government, would be about the same size as the one recently given consent in the Green Belt at Hinton. The plans for that solar farm divided opinion locally but councillors agreed with the officers that the benefits of the scheme outweighed the harm to the Green Belt.

Banks of solar PV panels would be mounted on a structure fixed to the ground and connected to inverters and transformers linked to the grid. Cables would be taken from the farm to plug into the local electricity network at Wapley substation.

The council says it wants to develop this scheme to increase the generation of renewable energy, reduce carbon emissions, increase energy security and generate income for the council and the community.

The Pucklechurch Parish Plan also includes an ambition to develop a renewable energy project in the area.

The plans were on display at the Pucklechurch Revel on Saturday and people are invited to attend a drop-in session on the potential project on Tuesday 30th June from 3pm to 7.30pm at Pucklechurch Community Centre.

Rob Webbon, an environment and climate change officer with the council, said there had been interest in the scheme at the Revel although some people were concerned about the Green Belt issue.

He said a recent survey  showed the site to be poor grade agricultural land. The deterioration from a previous grade 3 to grade 4 rating is expected to be as a result of motorway spoil dumped on the site during construction of the M4.

Mr Webbon stressed that the council wanted to hear views on the proposals before deciding whether to submit a planning application for this project.

drainageSome people also queried whether construction work currently being carried out at Leigh Farm, left, had anything to do with the proposal but those works are being carried out by the highways department as the road is prone to flooding. A new open ditch is being dug.

The council is inviting comments until 15th July. If it decides to proceed to a planning application, people will be formally invited to comment in the usual way, probably in the autumn.

Find out more under the Consultation section on the council’s website.

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