Hertfordshire public inquiry begins into solar farm on green belt land

A public inquiry into the building of a solar farm the size of more than 88 football pitches on green belt land has begun.

AGR 4 Solar Limited wants to build an 88-hectare (0.8 sq km) solar farm near Stevenage, Hertfordshire, with a life-span of 40 years.

Planning permission was granted by North Herts Council in November but the decision was called in by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up.

It is due to be held over seven days.

The scheme would include around 150,000 solar panels, as well as 22 transformer stations and 22 battery storage containers, in the villages of Great Wymondley, Graveley and Little Wymondley.

Paul Harding, a Great Wymondley resident who spoke on behalf of Wymondley Parish Council and the Great Wymondley Village Association, said: “This open landscape will be lost for 40 years with the industrialisation of the area.”

He said the scale of the proposal would “create a shadow over all aspects of life in our community” and have “a negative effect upon people’s mental health.

David Hardy, barrister for AGR, said planning permission must be granted if the council and Westminster government were “serious about their commitments to tackling climate change.

He said renewable energy generation, legacy landscape enhancement, ecological enhancements and local economic benefits were sufficiently great to “clearly outweigh” green belt harms.

Caroline Daly, barrister for North Herts Council, said: “At a national level, there is a pressing need for a very substantial rollout of renewable power generation schemes of all kinds in order to meet the legally binding national target set by the Climate Change Act 2008 to achieve net zero by 2050.”

The inquiry is due to finish on 22 September.

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