Dear Cranfield and Marston Vale Chronicle,
I think it is worth emphasising the sheer scale of the Cranfield Road Solar Farm development proposal (which will rank it in the top 10 largest solar farms in the East and South East of the UK*).
The 75-hectare site is 25 times the footprint of the MK Stadium and more than 100 football pitches in size. The part of the site that is in Bedford Borough (approx. 42 hectares) will industrialise more than 3% of the land area of Stagsden Parish.
Visually, the geometric arrangements of the rows and columns of the 100,000 plus** 3-metre tall solar panels that will be erected on the site can probably be compared to the Luton Airport long-term carpark, but with every space occupied by an identical black van – except that the site is more than eight times the size of the airport car park.
As the site is on the side of the valley, it cannot realistically be screened by hedgerows – only avenues of 25-metre-tall trees could effectively screen the site from the 8 public rights of way and bridlepaths that overlook the site. (25 metres is the approximate depth of the valley.)
It is hard to understand how MK and Centrals Beds have come to the view that no EIA is required (Bedford Borough has yet to reach a decision), the impact of a proposal on the landscape is a criterion under the 2017 Regulations. ‘Landscape’ is defined in most dictionaries as the visible features of an area of land.
The land currently produces a wheat crop. Based on average wheat yields and annual wheat production in the UK, the loss of the crop, if the land is turned over to solar development, will be equivalent to the annual wheat consumption of around 2,000 people for the next 40 years. Most of the site is classified as ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land on DEFRA maps. Government and Local Authority guidelines state that solar developments should be sited on brownfield or low-grade agricultural land. Liz Truss, said in 2014 when she was Environment Secretary, “English farmland is some of the best in the world and I want to see it dedicated to growing quality food and crops. I do not want to see its productive potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms. Farming is what our farms are for and it is what keeps our landscape beautiful.”
* BEIS Renewable energy planning database – June 2020
**The 10MW solar farm at Clayhill, Flitwick covers 18 hectares and contains 30,000 solar panels
West End Stagsden