Massive solar farm near Bedlington recommended for planning approval by Northumberland County Council officers

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Council officers have recommended a major solar farm project on a former Bedlington mining site is given planning consent next week.

The renewable energy plans would see 50 megawatts-worth of solar panels, 60MW of battery storage, and a grid connection constructed south of the town on a 79 hectare site.

Councillors will decide the fate of the plans for the agricultural site at a Strategic Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday, November 7 and have been advised to back the £84m scheme.

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Planning officers’ report said: “Whilst it is accepted that the proposed solar farm would have a modest adverse impact on the landscape and result in a reduction in agricultural production, it is considered that the benefits of the proposed development, particularly in terms of the supply and storage of renewable energy, would outweigh the identified harm.

The solar farm will be over 79 hectares if approved. (Photo by Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)The solar farm will be over 79 hectares if approved. (Photo by Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)
The solar farm will be over 79 hectares if approved. (Photo by Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)

“It is therefore recommended that planning permission be granted for this proposed development, subject to the imposition of planning conditions.”

The plans involve the removal of the panels at the end of their 40-year lifespan.

Construction is expected to take nine months and related traffic will be directed through a temporary access road on land owned by Bedlingtonshire Golf Club in order to minimise the impact on congestion in the town.

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The site will be unmanned and remotely monitored once online.

Other benefits of the scheme mentioned by planners include the improvement to the land’s quality from a long fallow period and improved biodiversity at the site.

They also suggested that the site was sufficiently sheltered by trees and hedges that it would not become an eyesore and far enough away from homes that there would be no noise issues.

But the key benefit highlighted was the 8,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions the scheme will prevent annually and the 13,000 homes each year that will have their energy needs met, in what planners described as an “important contribution” to meeting net zero targets.

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West Bedlington Town Council is among the consultees supporting the scheme, and is working with Bluefield Development, the firm behind the proposal, to decide how a £250,000 community benefit fund will be allocated.

Bluefield has already secured planning permission, granted by councillors in November 2022, for another solar farm in Bedlington and one near Blyth.