Fears voiced as plans are unveiled for huge solar farm near Peterborough

One of the largest solar farms in the UK could be created on swathes of countryside just outside Peterborough.

Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 7:16 am
The map shows the site proposed for the Mallard Pass Solar Farm - straddling the stretch of the East Coast Main Line where the Mallard locomotive set the world speed record for steam locomotives at 126 mph in 1938.

The planned 350MW Mallard Pass Solar Farm would involve the installation of an as yet unspecified number of solar panels over a 880 hectares site straddling the East Coast Main Line at Essendine.

Once operational, the solar farm is expected to generate enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of 92,000 homes via a connection to the National Grid at the Ryhall sub-station.

The project is being driven by Mallard Pass Solar Farm Limited - a joint venture set up by Northumberland-based Windel Energy and the New York listed Canadian Solar.

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Some of the land proposed for the Mallard Pass Solar Farm.

A campaign to win the backing of local residents, councils and businesses has been launched with a view to a planning application being submitted by the end of 2022 and with a decision expected in the spring 2023.

Details of the solar farm have still to be agreed but the size of its proposed energy output means it is classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) with the final decision to approve resting with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng MP.

The country’s only other NSIP solar farm to secure approval is the country’s largest - a £450 million scheme at Cleve Hill, in Kent, which has 880,000 solar panels on 364 hectares to power 91,000 homes.

While the Mallard Pass Solar Farm, which would sit on land in both South Kesteven and Rutland, is only at an early stage, it has already attracted criticism.

Some of the land proposed for the Mallard Pass Solar Farm.

But Gary Toomey, managing director of Windel Energy, set up three years ago, said: “We’re as aware as ever that we need to urgently decarbonize our electricity system.

“We want to do this whilst delivering reliable and sustainable energy, enhancing the local environment and being a responsible neighbour

“At a time when gas prices are at an all-time high due to our reliance on imported energy, it is our ambition to create low-cost energy that is kind to the local environment and delivers for the planet.

He said: “We recognise the need to deliver these projects sensitively.

“We want to talk with local communities to understand their views and listen to their ideas. “Feedback received during this Stage One consultation will help us to develop our proposals more thoroughly, and we want to hear from as many members of the community as possible.

“Our project website, virtual exhibition and contact channels are now live, and we will be coming to the community to host three local consultation events.

“I would encourage anyone with an interest in these projects to get in touch and take part in our upcoming consultation.”

Mr Toomey said the solar farm, which would sit across both South Kesteven and Rutland, would be designed so it was sensitive to the surrounding landscape and ‘respected’ existing residents and heritage features.

Once the initial consultation is completed, a Development Consent Order application will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.

However, opposition to the proposals is starting to grow.

Keith Busfield and Sue Holloway, of Carlby Road, Braceborough, are calling on Lincolnshire County Council to oppose the venture.

Mr Busfield said: “We will have the development within feet of our property – indeed on one map produced by Mallard Pass our house appears within the area of solar panels.

“We will have our prime front aspect totally dominated by solar panels and the field adjoining ours, which this year was a picture of a sea of blue linseed and most days hosts herds of deer, transformed by unwanted ‘potential mitigation and enhancement areas’.

He added: “This huge project will have a significantly adverse effect upon the local area and our personal lives.

“It is clear to me that this will have a significant impact not just on the Braceborough and Wilsthorpe community we live in, but the whole of the Stamford and Rutland area and surrounding villages.

“The roar of rage can almost be heard across the fields.

“I very much hope that Lincolnshire County Council can quickly take account of the views of local people and then actively oppose the project at all stages of the consultation process.”

The developers’ consultation programme runs until December 16 and will use digital interaction and face-to-face engagement.

The events are:

November 17 – Community Webinar 1 – 10am to noon.

November 23 - 2pm to 6pm — Ryhall Village Hall, Church St, Ryhall, Stamford PE9 4HR

November 24 - 10am to 3pm — Stamford Town Hall, St Mary’s Hill, Stamford PE9 2DR

November 25 - 2pm to 8pm — Essendine Village Hall, Bourne Rd, Essendine, Stamford PE9 4LQ

December 2 - Community Webinar 2 – 6pm to 8pm.

Anyone with an interest in the proposals can contact the project team directly, by emailing [email protected] or calling 0808 196 8717 or visiting www.MallardPassSolar.co.uk