Eric Pickles to consider Hardwick solar farm plan

Eric Pickles has got involved in the debate over the plans to build a solar farm near Hardwick
Eric Pickles has got involved in the debate over the plans to build a solar farm near Hardwick

A Government minister has got involved in the debate over the plans to build a solar farm near Hardwick.

A representative for Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has written to Wellingborough Council to ask them to inform the Department for Communities and Local Government when the application is going to a committee meeting and to let them know the outcome of the meeting.

The letter goes on to say: “Should the council be minded to approve the application, to withhold issuing the decision until the secretary of state has had time to consider the application.

“Unfortunately I am unable to give you a time frame as to how long this would take as the case would require a ministerial decision due to the interest that has been generated by the application.”

The planning application was submitted to Wellingborough Council by Pegasus Group, on behalf of JBM Solutions Ltd, and is to put up 75,000 solar panels on land off Stonebrig Lane, about half a mile from the village of Hardwick.

The application has angered residents of Hardwick, many of whom have written to Wellingborough Council to voice their concerns.

Resident Ebbe Dinesen said: “Hardwick has about 30 houses.

“If this proposal goes ahead as well as the planned solar park at Mears Ashby, the village will have a total of 135 acres of solar fields with approximately 135,000 solar panels right on our doorstep.

“The village will be suffocated by solar panels.”

The land earmarked for the solar farm is close to popular footpaths and bridleways, including some used for the Waendel Walk.

A public exhibition about the plans resulted in 31 responses.

Of those, nine supported the plan, 19 objected to it and there were three whose opinions “were not clear”.

Mr Dinesen said that included in this last category was a letter from Hardwick villagers which said the feeling among residents who attended a meeting about the application was one of “overwhelming opposition”.

David Cramer, of JBM Solutions, said: “We hosted a public exhibition in February to allow residents to provide feedback, which resulted in improvements to the scheme. We have since submitted our planning application and await a decision by Wellingborough Council.”

He added that the 18.75MW scheme will generate enough energy to supply about 10 per cent of domestic households in Wellingborough.

The application is due to go before the planning committee on September 3.