MP joins fight against solar farm proposals

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Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle has given his backing to residents fighting plans for a £12m solar farm near their homes.

He has written to Natural England to ask for the site in Heapey’s greenbelt to be designated as an “area of outstanding natural beauty”.

Mr Hoyle hopes it will provide greater protection under planning laws and prevent the development going ahead.

He said: “We have an area of outstanding natural beauty and a gateway to a country park that will be blighted.

“If you go on the moor, you will look down upon it. I think it’s totally inappropriate.

“It’s a major intrusion. It isn’t the right place and it certainly isn’t welcome.”

Mr Hoyle is also concerned that if this solar farm goes ahead, it could lead to other building work on the West Pennine Moors.

He is supporting residents as they fight the proposal.

Mr Hoyle added: “We are starting a campaign and we are asking people to get on board.

“The petition is out there and people are queueing up to sign it.”

Peter Smith, 63, is among the people who live nearby who are worried about the plans.

He said their main concern is the visual impact of the solar farm, which they believe would be visible from White Coppice and footpaths on the moors.

Mr Smith, of Kestrel Close, Heapey, said: “This is a particularly beautiful area. White Coppice is absolutely crowded on a Sunday.

“They come to see the beauty of the area, the peace and the tranquillity. This is completely out of place.

“If this gets the go ahead, it sets a precedent and I can’t see how any other application for a solar farm in this area can be turned down.”

Mr Smith believes more than 300 letters of objection have been sent to the council.

The consultation deadline is November 14 and the development control committee will make its decision on the scheme next month.

John Harrison has written a letter as chairman of Blackburn Road and Great Knowley Residents’ Association.

He said the group was unhappy that the solar farm would be in the greenbelt.

They are also concerned about the effect on wildlife, the visual impact and fear it could discourage tourists.

He said: “We are strongly opposed to this application because we believe it is not an appropriate site or area for this type of venture.”

Alban Cassidy, chartered town planner and environmental consultant at Cassidy And Ashton, the applicants, said: “We understand that some local residents are opposed to the project due to their concerns over the visual impact of the development.

“As a result, we have strived to minimise the site’s effect on the surrounding area.

“Furthermore, whilst it has been proven that the visual effects of solar farms are minimal compared to other more intrusive energy generating facilities, we have still incorporated a number of measures into the proposed site layout to ensure that the impact on long-distance views is significantly reduced.

“As a result, the visual impact will be minimal beyond the site boundary.”