The Wokingham Paper

Councillor ‘wary’ over 30-acre solar park bid in Arborfield

Solar panel pic
Solar panels could be installed in Arborfield if a new plan is approved. Picture: sxc.hu / dynamix

A 30-ACRE solar park is being planned for Arborfield – but may face opposition.
Wessex Solar Energy (WSE), based in Northumberland, has submitted a ‘scoping opinion’ application to seek feedback about its plan to develop land close to the Swallowfield border.

The proposed panels would be spread across 42 acres of land either side of Castle Hill and bordering Swallowfield Road to the north.

Arborfield and Newland Parish Council has submitted a number of concerns to Wokingham Borough Council which it suggests may be significant in advising WSE.
The issues raised include the possibility a Roman road may exist within the site; the fact land used to be woodland with a house on the site and the ability of Swallowfield Road to cope with construction traffic.

The parish has also sought reassurances over hedgerows and wanted information
about a previous application by WSE.

The parish also stated: “We also wonder why this is called Swallowfield Solar Park when it is within the parish of Arborfield & Newland and is closer to the settlement of Arborfield than Swallowfield.”

Wokingham borough councillor for Arborfield Gary Cowan said he remained wary of the application. He said: “I would like to know more about it first and I want to ask questions about its impact on the bridleways and byways that lots of people use.

“There are also issues around access and also the scheduled bypass for Arborfield.”
He said the nearby Farley Farm estate with its Grade I listed building should be considered.

He added: “My initial view is I would not support it until I had more information.”
The park would produce up to five megawatts of energy and would have an operating life of 25 years. It would consist of PhotoVoltaic cells and would feed electricity into the regional grid.

Government guidelines require councils to consider the visual impact and the effect of glint and glare on neighbours and aircraft safety, when solar parks reach the planning application stage.

WSE had not responded to our request for a comment at the time of going to press – we will have an update in Friday’s Wokingham Paper, on sale in all good newsagents for just 50p.

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