The Conservative Party once claimed to stand for the defence of our green and pleasant land against the predations of environmental fanatics. How things change. Such is the current mania within the party for ‘modernisation’, the Conservative-led Malvern Hills District Council is now considering plans for a giant local solar farm in the face of widespread opposition from groups including the local Green Party.
Before the council are plans to build a 185,000 panel solar array over 185 acres of farmland, an area roughly equivalent to 105 football pitches, lying just five kilometres from the declared Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The scheme includes a centre station, substations, a replacement tower, inverters, fencing and security cameras.
A decision was due to be made by the Council in March this year, but has been delayed until the summer.
While the verdict on the array at Woodhall Farm is still pending, suspicion follows that the Conservative-led planning committee will give the plans the go-ahead after similar plans were granted permission by Tory-led Wychavon District Council for a 60 acre array on a former RAF aerodrome last November.
As Conservatives giving the green light to solar arrays seems counter-intuitive, some residents have assumed that the Green Party was the real culprit. That theory was demolished by local Green Party campaigner Louis Stephen who wrote to the Worcester News to say:
“It was the Tory led Wychavon District Council that approved the application by Solar Planning Ltd for a 60 hectare solar farm on the former RAF Aerodrome at Defford, Besford, last November.
“It will be the Tory led Malvern Hills District Council that determines the outstanding application for the solar park on the 75 hectare site at Woodhall Farm, Wichenford.
“Although the Green Party broadly favours solar energy generation, given the relatively low efficiency of generation at UK latitudes, solar collectors should only be located where the space can’t be used for anything else.
“By all means put them urban roofs, municipal and industrial buildings in towns and on farm buildings in the countryside.
“However we [must] protect productive arable land, particularly when this is wildlife rich and set within the valued landscapes of our county.”
Meanwhile protests continue over the plans. A change.org petition pleading with the councillors to “Please support our campaign to reject this latest application” has gained 368 signatures. The authors reason: “Solar energy should be encouraged in the right locations, as per government guidelines (eg brown-field sites and rooftops), not in the middle of the English countryside.
“This development will be huge and a significant blight on the rural landscape, impacting both local communities as well as spoiling the glorious views from the nearby Malvern Hills and the even closer Ankerdine Hill.
“We cannot and should not allow large swathes of our countryside to be blighted, farming is what our farms are for and what keeps our landscape beautiful.”
The council’s planning department has also received numerous letters from parish councils and locals, both objecting and in support of the development on a variety of grounds. But amongst the letters of support, one stands out: that from Natural England, another recently ‘modernised’ organisation formerly interested in preserving Britain’s countryside.
Their submission notes: “Natural England is a non-departmental public body. Our statutory purpose is to ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced, and managed for the benefit of present and future generations, thereby contributing to sustainable development.”
It then goes on to say that they have “no objection”, despite the site’s “visual impacts” on the Malvern Hills AONB, “for example, potential glint and glare, have not been adequately addressed in the Environmental Statement.” They then helpfully list ways in which this can be mitigated.
Breitbart London contacted the Conservative head of planning for Malvern Hills District Council for comment, but received no reply.