Coun Richard Dodd, who represents the Ponteland North ward, applied for permission for a free-standing, low level PV array at his farm near Belsay.
Due to the fact Coun Dodd is a county councillor, the application had to go before the council’s strategic planning committee. To further complicate matters, Coun Dodd himself is a member of the committee, meaning he had to leave the room while the application was decided.
Speaking at the meeting in support of the application, Rachel Dodd said: “As you will be aware, we are currently in the middle of an energy crisis, climate emergency and rising costs of living.
“The property is currently reliant on oil and mains electricity and therefore heavily reliant on fossil fuels. This proposal will assist the household to become more sustainable in terms of energy, environment and economy.”
Miss Dodd also explained that the proposal would use recycled materials, including railway sleepers and crushed railway ballast, and that the solar panels would be ground mounted and so could be removed at any time.
She added that the environmental benefits would outweigh any harm done to the openness of the green belt.
Coun Barry Flux supported the application, and said: “In other parts of the country you will see big solar farms. Maybe you will see them in Northumberland and when that occurs I have no doubt you will see applications like in those areas which will have the discussions on whether it is appropriate.
“This is far, far smaller than those developments and it will be interesting to see if more of these these developments will come forward. I think we may well see many more in this area.”
Coun Lyle Darwin added: “I think this is more of an example project. It is very in keeping with the area and it’s not going to be invasive. I think it is very well placed.
“This is a great example of what we should be striving to recommend. I think it’s a great application.”
The committee, which is made up of councillors from all parties, unanimously approved the plan.