New plans submitted for 85 hectare solar farm north of Harrogate

Members of the public can have their say on the proposal up until July 22.
Members of the public can have their say on the proposal up until July 22.

Community opposition is stirring against plans for a major solar farm in an idyllic part of the North Yorkshire countryside.

Irish and UK renewable energy giants Elgin have lodged an application for Cayton Solar Farm, which would produce up to 49.9 megawatts of electricity during peak operation, for farmland near the village of South Stainley, north of Harrogate.

In a planning statement submitted in May, details of the 85 hectare project were outlined, including the intention to have the land remain in agricultural use in the form of sheep grazing around the solar panels.

The farm would consist of rows of panels known as 'strings' with the panels standing between 0.8m and 2.8m in height.

Construction of the development would take between three to four months, with planning permission sought for the farm to operate for 30 years.

In their statement, the applicants said the farm would support Harrogate Borough Councils economic policies by encouraging the diversification of use for rural and agricultural areas.

The farm would also aid in the UK's broader goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, according to the statement, with solar power also having a limited environmental impact compared to other forms of renewable energy production.

However, concerns from nearby residents have seen a group opposing the development formed, with a meeting set to be held later this month to discuss their issues with the proposal.

South Stainley resident and regional landscape architect Tim Reid said chief among their worries was the impact on nearby public rights of way and farming land.

"At the heart of the objection is the sheer scale and character of the solar farm which we believe is both inappropriate and will not serve the public interest," he said.

"The effect on local business is also a major concern, with the local tourist

centre of Ripley Castle, pubs, holiday lets and substantial existing farming operations are all at threat at a time of economic uncertainty.”

In documents submitted to the council, Harrogate Bridleways Association (HBA) and the British Horse Society (BHS) also voiced fears that construction would see gates installed upon public rights of way.

"If the applicant intends to put up gates across any of the bridleways where there are currently none then we object to this application," the submission states.

Public consultation on the proposal opened earlier this month, with residents urged to have their say on the plan before July 22.

Elgin's application is not the only large scale solar farm proposed for North Yorkshire.

Earlier this year, Warrington Borough Council announced their intention to be fully powered by a solar farm to be based near Easingwold, with a plan to sell-off excess energy on the open market.

The move would make the Warrington authority the first local authority to have all its electricity needs met with clean energy.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter