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Solar farm project faces refusal over road safety fears

By CitizenNews  |  Posted: September 03, 2014

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FOREST council officials look set to throw out major solar farm plans over fears it will distract drivers on a dangerous stretch of road.

Residents are concerned there will be a huge increase in lorries on the A48 if the 50,000-panel farm is built on agricultural land near Lydney.

Calls have been made for safety improvements on the road which has claimed five lives in only nine months.

County councillor Richard Leppington (U, Blakeney and Bream) said: “I think the officers have come to the right decision.

“The impact on the A48 is my main reason for objection with the potential for distraction, accidents or loss of life on a road where people have recently died.

“You will be talking huge lorries trying to get through a little gateway during construction,” he added.

A total of 137 letters objecting to the scheme earmarked for Nibley Mill Farm have been sent to Forest of Dean District Council outlining concerns including a risk of glare, the impact on the environment and fears the farm will be visible for miles.

Steve Dodson, who runs a canine training centre at Forest Oak Farm, situated next door to the earmarked site, fears glare from panels will distract dogs and therefore damage business.

He hopes members of the council’s planning committee will follow the officers’ recommendation and added: “We can only hope it will be rejected. But the company is more than likely to appeal and then it is whether the Government inspector takes notice of local people or not.

“We have lobbied hard with councillors so what more can we do.”

AEE Renewables has scaled back plans from 79,000 panels to around 50,200 due to concern from residents.

AEE managing director Niels Kroninger said: “Solar energy is a valuable part of the UK’s future energy security.

“Restricted by a lack of suitable brownfield sites, Nibley is one of very few locations in the Forest of Dean that is suitable for solar development by utilising low-grade land., avoiding heritage assets and providing good access to the national grid. We appreciate that even a well-sited and well-screened solar farm can be seen from certain viewpoints but we believe that scaling back the project by a third has made the visual impact acceptable.

“We have worked hard to mitigate local anxieties by minimising the impact to local traffic and providing as much screening as possible.” with hedgerow planting and maximising the benefits for wildlife and biodiversity. Further, we have made a commitment to community benefits which will see us contributing £91,000 to a community trust foundation, enabling up to £5,000 per year to be spent in perpetuity on projects selected by and benefiting residents of Lydney.”

The plan will be debated by Forest of Dean District Council’s planning authority on Tuesday September 9.

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