Fears over rural solar farm

A solar farm is going to be built on greenbelt land in the Harewood ward.
A solar farm is going to be built on greenbelt land in the Harewood ward.

A Wetherby ward councillor has criticised Leeds City Council for allowing a large solar panel farm to be built in open countryside.

Coun John Procter (Con) said the authority’s North and East Plans Panel had made the wrong decision by approving proposals to install 654 photovoltaic (PV) panels on greenbelt land at Two Hoots Farm, between Harewood and East Keswick.

While he stressed that he was supportive of renewable energy methods, he expressed concerns over the location of the development, which he fears could potentially harm the rural character of the Harewood ward.

Coun Procter said: “In my view the council has made the wrong decision, this site is situated in the greenbelt and is designated as an area with special landscape interest.

“It is simply not appropriate to be building relatively large scale solar PV farms in the countryside. Renewable energy is a hugely positive technology but it needs to be used in the right locations, this is not one of them.

“My group are also slightly concerned at the response received to my comments from the council’s ruling administration in that it suggested that more of this type of development could be on the way – I am sure residents in both Wetherby and Harewood wards will be concerned about that.”

However, the chairman of the North and East Plans Panel, Coun Neil Walshaw, argued that the body had a responsibility to tackle the issue of climate change and using renewable energy was a sensible way forward.

Coun Walshaw said: “As Coun Procter knows, the decision on this planning application was made by the North and East Plans Panel, a quasi-judicial body, purely on the merits of the case, after twice being publicly deliberated in depth.

“Plans panels have to look at each application on their own merits and come to a decision on them. But we are at a point where our decisions now will have a big impact on the future. Clearly we need to decide whether we respond to the challenge of climate change with kind words or real action. It is surely better to use relatively safe and clean renewal energy than polluting, non-renewable sources? That is difficult when central government is moving to “fast-track” the planning process for fracking – removing valuable safeguards and local decision making as they do so.”