Huge solar farm planned for Frampton Cotterell

May 03 2021
Huge solar farm planned for Frampton Cotterell

A HUGE solar energy farm which could generate energy for around 15,000 homes could be built next to Frampton Cotterell.

A planning application has been made for agricultural land west of the village, either side of Perrinpit Road Bristol Road and the Old Gloucester Road.

The panels would cover an area of more than 63 hectares, around 155 acres or about the same area as 77 football pitches, with the entire site covering 82 hectares.

They would generate 49.9 megawatts of electricity providing around 40 megawatts to the network and will power approximately 15,000 homes.

If the scheme is approved, the site would be in operation for 40 years before being returned to farmland.

But opponents of the scheme fear it could have an adverse impact on local wildlife, particularly birds, and say not enough consultation has taken place.

The company behind the application, Perrinpit Road Solar Ltd, is a joint venture between BayWa r.e. UK, part of the a global renewable energy development business, and Grϋne Energien Solar, which specialises in solar energy.

A spokesperson for BayWa r.e. said: “South Gloucestershire Council has declared both a climate and an ecological emergency, aiming to become a carbon neutral Council by 2030, and has pledged to make the area a net zero carbon emissions area by 2045. We are excited to be able to make a significant contribution towards that commitment.

“Our proposals for Perrinpit Farm will power the equivalent of around 15,000 houses per year, and we will also be planting wildflower meadows and other environmental enhancements as outlined in our planning application submission.

“Not only this, but the site will continue to be used as grazing ground for sheep. These proposals are a genuine win-win, which will help move away from fossil fuels, whilst also improving the local environment for plants, animals, and people.”

Under the plans footpaths and bridleways will remain. Sections of hedgerow will have to be removed for construction work, but Baywa r.e. says it will plant 340m of new hedgerows.

A landscape and ecological management plan submitted with the application says habitats for protected species including dormice, badgers, birds and bats will be retained, and new nesting sites will be created for ground nesting birds such as the skylark.

It says the scheme "can provide biodiversity benefit in the medium-long term".

Another report on the site's trees said stopping ploughing the fields could "provide a longer-term ecological benefit for the site”.

But some residents are concerned that there will be a negative impact.

Julian Selman, who lives within half a mile of the site, said: “The company is making many assurances about mitigation and putting in more hedgerows, but I can’t see how it is not going to have a devastating effect on the wildlife of the area, because of the wholesale destruction of the land itself.

"In terms of birds the area is very rich, and the larks will certainly lose most of their nesting sites if the plans go ahead. I am truly devastated.”

More than 20 people have commented so far on the South Gloucestershire Council's website.

Some have raised concerns over the impact on wildlife and biodiversity, concerns over nesting birds and the effect of glare on horses.

Others have called the panels being ‘unsightly’ and an unnecessary over-development of the greenbelt.

However other residents have written in favour of the plans, saying the solar farm would protect the fields from housing development, provide renewable energy to combat climate change and enable the landowner to diversify his farming business.

One resident whose comment was published, Robert Gallacher, said: “I’m proud one of our business owners is looking to the future for renewable energy.

"It's about time – our country and planet is slipping away from us; this is one small step towards saving our community and planet.”

Some residents have raised concerns that the consultation process was not wide enough, with the council only sharing information on social media and websites and writing to 150 near neighbours.

BayWa r.e. says it started consulting last November 2020, speaking to ward councillors, and sent 189 letters to ‘near neighbours’.

Before the planning application went in it gave online presentations to meetings of both Winterbourne and Frampton Cotterell parish council, which raised no objections. These were publicised on social media and on the respective websites. The company said it had ‘tried to reach out to all stakeholders and neighbours’ and had been unable to go ‘door knocking’ due to the Covid19 pandemic.

People have until May 7 to comment on the plans, which can be seen on the planning section of the council website by searching for application P21/01624/F.

The project website can be found here.