Solar farm protestors hope for CRASH landing

Objectors: From left, Jane Evans, John McGinty and Milly McGinty
Objectors: From left, Jane Evans, John McGinty and Milly McGinty

Residents are hopeful they can win their fight against plans to build a £12m solar farm near their homes.

Chorley Council’s development control committee will consider a planning application for a site on Tithe Barn Lane, Heapey, at their meeting tonight.

A report prepared for the meeting by planning officers recommends permission is refused, saying the development would have “a significant impact on the character and appearance of both the local and wider area”.

The report states: “While the environmental benefits of the proposal are considerable and acknowledged, on balance, it is not considered that these provide sufficient very special circumstances to outweigh the harm that will be caused to the character and openness of the greenbelt.”

Under the proposals, 32,000 solar panels would be installed on the site, which is mainly greenbelt land.

Applicants, Cassidy And Ashton Group, say the solar farm would produce enough energy to power 2,500 homes per year and would save 340 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

It would be expected to last for 25 years.

There would also be a substation building and six inverters, each consisting of two small buildings.

The proposals have been met with anger from people living nearby, who set up a group, Chorley Residents Against Solar Heapey (CRASH), to oppose the scheme.

They launched a campaign and even built a mock solar panel to show people how big the farm would be.

Jane Evans, who lives on Tithe Barn Lane next to the site, welcomed the recommendation to refuse the plans.

She said: “I am very hopeful, but obviously it might not be the end. It might just be a battle won and not the war.

“I imagine they can appeal if the decision is to throw it out.”

CRASH has delivered flyers to people in the area encouraging them to go to the meeting.

Jane added: “I think it’s important that a lot of people go, even though they know that the recommendation is for refusal.”

Chorley Council has received 479 letters of objection to the planning application, with a wide range of concerns.

They include the development of the green belt, the visual impact of the solar farm, effect on wildlife, the impact on tourism and drainage issues.

Letters of objection have been received from Heapey Parish Council, Anglezarke Parish Council, Blackburn Road And Great Knowley Residents’ Association, Ramblers Association, Chorley And District Natural History Society and several councillors.

Chorley’s MP, Lindsay Hoyle, also opposed the plan.

He has already written to Natural England asking for the site to be designated as an “area of outstanding natural beauty”.

The council has also received 39 letters in support of the application.

Cassidy And Ashton Group declined to comment.