We are concerned about the proposal for a West Welwyn Solar Farm…

16th November 2021

Last week CPRE Hertfordshire attended a ‘public information day’ at St Peter’s church in Ayot St Peter. We wanted to find out more about a proposed large-scale solar farm for a corporate customer to be sited in lovely countryside in the Green Belt.

The event was sponsored by renewable energy company Black Mountain Developments. They and partner Ampyr Energy are proposing to build a large-scale commercial solar farm on 45 hectares of land in the Green Belt between Ayot St Lawrence and Ayot St Peter. The energy produced would be transmitted by underground cable to a private corporate customer in Welwyn Garden City called Colt Data Centre Services, to power their hyperscale data centre. There are several options under consideration for the route of this cable.

We believe renewable energy has an important part to play in mitigating climate change. But not at the expense of productive agricultural land and the Green Belt. Our policy on ground-mounted solar installations strikes a balance between these factors, and we hope local authorities will take heed of the need to protect the countryside for the benefit of local people and communities.

What are the main problems with large-scale solar farms?

  • Solar is hugely inefficient in comparison to offshore wind, with production efficiency of 11 – 15%, whereas offshore wind is >50%.
  • Solar energy has a place in addressing the climate emergency and we advocate for photovoltaic panels on roofs of residential and office buildings / warehouses, but not on the ground.
  • Productive agricultural land should be used for food production, not for industrial uses.
  • Wildlife and biodiversity suffer as does people’s enjoyment of open countryside.
  • Residential neighbours have the setting of their property altered and industrialised.

And of course, the Green Belt is designated protected land in national planning policy, and is intended to be permanently open.

In the case of the proposed West Welwyn Solar Farm, it was clear from the steady stream of local residents attending the information day that they have significant concerns, and so do we. The Green Belt land under consideration is productive agricultural land. It is a very prominent, open landscape rising from Codicote Road in the east towards Ayot St Lawrence on the west. The solar farm site is bounded on the southwestern side by Stocking Springs Wood Nature Reserve and by a much-used public bridleway. Another well-used public bridleway and footpath crosses the site further to the northeast.  This is an important and valued recreational area for walkers, runners, and horseback riders from the surrounding local communities.

Black Mountain Developments is currently in the pre-planning stage and has not submitted a planning application.  We will be monitoring the situation.

If you have concerns about this proposal, please get in touch with us, and if you are not already a CPRE member, please join us.  We are a longstanding local charity dedicated to promoting and protecting the Hertfordshire countryside for everyone’s benefit.