Plug gets pulled on Watnall solar farm

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Broxtowe Borough Councillors has blocked proposals for building a solar energy farm in the borough.

At a meeting of the planning committee on June 17 , members refused to open the 24 hectare site off Long Lane, Watnall, to development.

As it includes the derelict former Watnall Brickworks, it constitutes both greenfield and brownfield land.

Councillors considered an application to redesignate the part set aside for agricultural use—and therefore under green belt protections.

Cllr Philip Owen, Conservative member for Nuthall East and Strelley, said the change would only have been justified under exceptional conditions.

He said: “I spoke against it because it was an inappropriate development on green belt land. The application failed to prove special circumstances in any way, shape or form.”

But those in favour suggested it was the project’s green ambitions which led to the Conservative majority committee’s refusal.

A statement from the Liberal Democrat group said: “A number of the Tory members questioned whether renewable energy was even needed in the UK.”

Just a week after Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders at the G7 meeting declared intentions to end the use of fossil fuels, Broxtowe is not necessarily in agreement.

The solar farm was expected to provide 17Mw of power to the national grid, enough to power 5,150 houses and save 6,700 tonnes of carbon emissions every year.

Lib Dem group leader Steve Carr added: “I’m very disappointed that Conservative and independent members of the planning committee voted against this vital measure to increase sustainable energy in Broxtowe.

“Even more worrying was their obvious ideology that flies in the face of not only the science but also their own party policy.”

Cllr Owen replied: “It was argued thatthe need for renewable energy is a special circumstance. I don’t necessarily agree. Even if I did, this wasn’t an appropriate plan.

“We were elected with a policy to protect green belt. It would have been absurd to approve this.”