Land assessment for possible solar energy initiative

A site has been identified for a potential large-scale solar park near a Northumberland village.

Green Switch Solutions Ltd is investigating the suitability of installing panels on land associated to Prestwick Hall Estate.

It has written to the county council to request a formal screening opinion. Under this planning procedure, the authority will determine whether or not an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is necessary.

Where it is decided that an assessment is required, the applicant must compile the information reasonably required to assess the likely significant environmental effects of the development and if a formal planning application is put forward, this document must be taken into account in the council’s decision.

The company’s proposal is to install up to 34 MWp (megawatt peak) of solar photovoltaic panels on the land. They would be laid out in arrays of long rows.

Its screening report says that it believes an EIA is not required.

“Whilst it is considered that there will be impacts on the area over and above those which already exist due to the installation of solar panels on agricultural land, such as minimal visual impact to the immediate locality, these are matters that can be dealt with as part of the planning application,” it adds.

The site is within the Prestwick Carr Local Wildlife Site, which is used by a number of breeding and passage bird species, and the Northumberland Wildlife Trust says in its response, written by conservation officer Naomi Waite, that an EIA is necessary.

It adds: “Whilst the application area itself is not within the boundary of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), it is within the hydrological unit of the Prestwick Carr SSSI.”

The Ponteland Greenbelt Group is aware of the report and some of its members are currently conducting research.