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Huge solar farm size of 30 football pitches given green light for farmland near Loughborough

A solar farm the size of 30 football pitches and able to power thousands of homes is set to be built in the Leicestershire countryside. The farm, which will cover 55 acres between the River Soar and the A6 on the outskirts of Quorn, was approved by Leicestershire County Council on Thursday, subject to a number of conditions.

It will be made up of solar panels set into a series of arrays and will be built at Poole Farm, in fields either side of Flesh Hovel Lane. The planning permission is for a period of 40 years, after which the farm will be dismantled.

Generating 9,170MWh of renewable electricity a year, enough to power more than 3,000 homes, it will save 4,747 tonnes of carbon dioxide over 12 months compared to a gas-fired power station.

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Each panel, measuring 1m by 1.8m, will be set into frames above the ground to protect them from flooding. Underground cabling will attach the solar arrays to 41 inverters and a substation. The solar panels will be treated with anti-glare coating to reduce the risk of glint.

The council had previously proposed a larger solar farm along with a number of industrial units, but the application was withdrawn. A community consultation exercise for that application carried out in 2019 received four responses from members of the public, who expressed concerns about the impact on public rights of way, the River Soar, and hedgerows and trees.

Four trees and six sections of hedgerow will be removed to accommodate the farm, and a number of other trees and hedgerows will be trimmed. Animals will continue to graze on the site once the solar farm is built, meaning no agricultural land will be lost.

In a report to the council’s Development Control and Regulatory Board, planning officers said the Climate Change Act 2008 “sets a target for the UK to achieve net zero by 2050, and the Energy White Paper published by the UK Government in 2020 recognizes solar energy generation as a key component of decarbonising the country’s energy supply”.

The report added: “The solar farm’s temporary nature is also important; although 40 years is a long period, the site would remain in agricultural use during this time with livestock grazing alongside the solar arrays, and once all the equipment has been removed the land would be returned to exclusive agricultural use with the landscaping scheme offering a legacy of a strengthened landscape structure.”

Coun Hilary Fryer, who represents Quorn and Barrow upon Soar, said: “I think it’s a very good use of county council land. It’s not withdrawing any of the access from the public rights of way. It will maintain and improve some of the areas there. [The site has] very interesting flora and fauna because you’re bounded by the canal and the river, and it’s in very old woodland and grass area.”

The application was passed subject to a number of conditions, including the adoption of a biodiversity management plan. The plan will be reviewed before work begins, but currently includes detailed proposals for new woodland, hedgerows and wildflower meadows, and the creation of new ponds and an area of ​​marshy grassland. It also calls for the installation of nesting and hibernation boxes for bats, birds and hedgehogs, as well as hedgehog highways and badger gates in all fencing.

Although the application has been approved, Quorn Parish Council has been given until June 28 to provide feedback on the proposals after an email mix-up meant they weren’t able to view the plans beforehand.

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