Solar farms covering 320 acres of Derbyshire farmland would “decimate” villages, campaigners claim

Plans for solar farms covering 320 acres of cherished Derbyshire farmland would “decimate” the surrounding villages and hinder the nation’s ability to sustain itself, campaigners claim.

Campaigners from Denby and Smalley are working together to fend off plans from Scottish firm Intelligent Alternatives which submitted early plans for two neighbouring solar farms in November last year.

Earlier this week more than 40 campaigners along with children and dogs gathered outside Kidsley Park Farm in Heanor Road, between Smalley and Heanor, to make their presence known – with passing traffic honking horns in support.

Among them was Andrew Dakin, aged 65, a third generation tenant farmer whose family has cultivated Kidsley Park Farm for more than 90 years.

He said he was “totally dumbstruck” when he received a call from a solar farm company saying they would like all of his land.

His grandad John Dakin and his dad John Dakin farmed the land, but Andrew may now be the last to farm it – at least for 40 years – if the solar farm schemes are approved.

Andrew said he was first made aware of the plans in May last year and that the campaign to protect the land really kicked off in November, with the submission of an environmental impact assessment to Amber Valley Borough Council and a first campaign meeting at The Bell pub in Smalley.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It is my way of life. I love the countryside and I want it kept the way it is for future generations.

“We need to be able to feed the nation and we need as much land as we can.“We do need renewable energy but that should not mean we sacrifice our green fields.

“We need food security because at the moment we are reliant on food imports and with all the conflicts, like in Ukraine, we have seen that we need to be able to look after ourselves.

“Brownfield sites and factory roofs would be better places for solar panels and we do need plenty of renewable energy, but we are behind the game and are trying to play catchup by putting them on green fields instead.

“Companies can make a lot of money out of it but it results in a loss to our community.”

Cllr Amanda Paget, one of the Save Kidsley Park Farm campaign group coordinators and Amber Valley borough councillor, said: “Andrew’s livelihood is the biggest reason I got involved, it is the human element.

“Environmentally I don’t think this is the right place for solar panels. They should be on rooftops because green fields are great for carbon capture, it’s a green sink.

“A wind farm would be far more suitable in this area and Andrew could still farm around it.”

She said there were widespread flooding concerns from the plans with the surrounding area already experiencing regular flooding issues, with people’s gardens effectively becoming swimming pools.

Chris Gent, aged 50, a business writer who is coordinating the Save Denby Green Belt campaign, with 120 members, told the LDRS: “I don’t object to solar energy at all. It just feels wrong to put solar farms on green land, it feels contrary to the real point.

“While the company is planning two solar farms it is one development really. It will be there for 40 years when a lot of people will no longer be there.

“We want to support these sorts of things but it is just in the wrong place.“There is a need to diversify farming and farmers have had a tough time so you can see that if a developer comes along it would be difficult to say ‘no’, but this is completely inappropriate.”

Georgia Hubbard, aged 22, a charity worker and coordinator for the Save Kidsley Park Farm campaign group, with more than 500 members, said: “We have a lot of support in the community and we have all got involved to help Andrew.

“I think it is just wrong that a big global company can be allowed to pitch up in the village and take the land a farmer has worked for generations.

“Wealthy people are just turning up and ruining the countryside. They think it will just be bulldozed through and we can’t do anything about it.

“Developers are just looking at a map for substations and then going around buying up land. It is a worry that they can just do that.

“The fact that this is Green Belt should end the conversation. If we don’t stand up they’ll just bulldoze through.”

Dave Moore, aged 65, an ICT advisor who has lived in Denby for 25 years, said the plans would see 80,000 solar panels placed in the countryside, with six-foot deer fencing encompassing the perimeter, impacting five miles of footpaths.

He said: “Obviously there is a need and a big move for green energy but there is a better place for it. Putting them in the Green Belt just doesn’t make sense and the impact is that people are being thrown off the land.

“The countryside would be changed forever.”

Bridget Charles, who brought her seven border collies, aged one through to five, said she moved to the area for the countryside access and fears this could be lost.

She said: “We will be sandwiched between the two developments and it is going to ruin the countryside for everyone.

“It has ruined my retirement. I was looking forward to tramping around the fields with my dogs but that is at risk.

“The law should be changed to say buildings have to have solar panels on them and that would help towards the need for solar.

“Denby is a farming village and this is just going to decimate it.”

Intelligent Alternatives is yet to submit formal planning applications for the two farms, with environmental impact assessment applications submitted in November.

One scheme “Denby Farm” would see a 148-acre solar farm, capable of generating 40 megawatts, built off Derby Road, Denby, just east of the Denby Pottery complex.

The second scheme, “Kidsley Park Farm”, would see a 180-acre solar farm, capable of generating 40 megawatts, built off Heanor Road, Smalley, covering fields between Heanor and the village.

Both sites would also include battery energy storage schemes, which would store energy for times of peak demand or urgent supply.

Reports submitted by the developers say the two schemes would be 500 metres apart, with a rejection of a potential negative cumulative impact.

UK law states that solar farms which would generate 50 megawatts or more of electricity need to be decided nationally by the Planning Inspectorate, instead of by local councils – with local councils instead becoming just one of many consultees.

Both the Denby and Smalley solar farms are individually under the threshold for this more lengthy, time-consuming and scrutinous national planning process, but combined would be over this threshold.

The developer says: “The site and its surroundings are considered to be generally appropriate for solar farm deployment and no significant cumulative effects and/or transboundary effects are anticipated.

“Aligned with national trends, the UK Government is concerned about the current living crisis and the urgent need to address climate change.

“As a result, the Government aims to reduce reliance on international fossil fuel imports and work towards a low carbon target.

“Consequently, Derbyshire is projected to witness an increase in the development of grid-connected renewable energy projects, as indicated in the Derbyshire Spatial Energy Study.”

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