Express & Star

Decision on solar farm near Stafford is deferred

A decision on whether or not to grant planning permission for a new solar farm near Stafford has been deferred after councillors asked for more information.

The land north of Hanyards Lane in Tixall. Photo: Google

The 49.5MW solar energy scheme is earmarked for a 62 hectare (153 acre) site north of Lower Hanyards Farm at Hanyards Lane in Tixall.

The solar panels, which would be up to 2.9m high, would be in place for up to 40 years on the farmland, with livestock grazing and production of animal feed continuing.

The proposals have been recommended for approval by Stafford Borough Council planning officers, but have 13 letters of objection, as well as concerns from Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council about loss of agricultural land for food production and impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Flooding and drainage issues were also highlighted by objectors. And planning committee members requested further details on how they will be dealt with when they met on Tuesday, February 27, highlighting flooding issues elsewhere in the Stafford area.

A report to Tuesday’s planning committee meeting said: “There are two springs which pass through the site, however the site is designated within the Environment Agency`s Flood Zone 1, the zone of least flood risk.

"The LLFA (Local Lead Flood Authority) have examined the proposed drainage strategy, but further details of drainage design, infiltration testing, management plan for surface water drainage elements and plans illustrating flooded areas and flow paths in the event of exceedance of the drainage system are required.

“The LLFA have advised that these details shall be requested by way of condition prior to the commencement of development.

"Compliance conditions will also be imposed to prevent soil erosion under the proposed solar panels and to also require the surface water management plan is adhered to during construction phase.”

Councillor Frances Beatty, ward member for the area, called in the application so that planning committee members could consider “location, impact on the local topography, size, visual impact in the landscape; planning concerns of the local community (and) traffic movements.”

She also called for the committee to consider “whether the proposed use of the agricultural land has been shown to be necessary and confirm that poorer quality land has been used in preference to higher quality land; and that the proposal allows for continued agricultural use and encourages biodiversity improvements around arrays”.

Planning permission has previously been granted for a wind turbine at the farm, while an appeal was allowed for two turbines to be installed in 2013.

Paul Bailey, who spoke in support of the latest application at Tuesday’s meeting, said: “The applicant has had a strong relationship with the farmer over the past 10 years and there has been a significant amount of green energy generated from the wind turbines.

“He is keen to build on the success with this scheme. The applicant is from a farming background and is keen to ensure there will be continued agricultural use.

“In terms of drainage, we have had considerable discussions with the Local Lead Flood Authority to develop an acceptable scheme.

"There will be no increase to surface water because of this scheme – there will be the same amount of rain falling on that site.”