Residents' sleepless nights over solar farm the size of Durham which will swallow up huge swathe of Yorkshire

Residents in Howdenshire are having "sleepless nights" over a huge solar farm in East Yorkshire which will “industrialise” an area of farmland the size of 2,000 football pitches, councillors heard.

Boom Power says the 400 megawatt plant between Gribthorpe, Spaldington and Wressle, and Howden, which will connect to the grid at Drax, should produce enough electricity to power around 100,000 homes.

The government wants to increase solar power by nearly fivefold to 70GW by 2035.

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However ward councillor Victoria Aitken told East Riding Council's planning committee residents chose to live in the area for its open countryside.

The villages of Gribthorpe, Spaldington, Brind and Willitoft will be "completely engulfed" residents sayThe villages of Gribthorpe, Spaldington, Brind and Willitoft will be "completely engulfed" residents say
The villages of Gribthorpe, Spaldington, Brind and Willitoft will be "completely engulfed" residents say

While they supported green energy, the scale of the project - which she said equates to the size of the city of Durham - would radically change the nature of the area.

She said people were "worried sick" and felt "this was being done to them and they were carrying the burden of a much wider area of the country".

She said: "We actually believe that food security is also a national priority. When I have walked these lanes or cycled and I've been in these hamlets, the environment is a farming environment that produces food for us to eat. Once the solar panels are in, that environment will change completely."

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Coun Aitken urged councillors to "magnify" their concerns in a "local impact" report the council will submit ahead of a two-day inquiry starting on July 9. East Riding Council isn't the decision-maker as the project is considered nationally significant. An inspector will make a recommendation to government, with the Secretary of State making the final decision.

The meeting at County Hall in Beverley heard between 10 to 20 per cent of the land earmarked for the project was judged "best and most versatile" agricultural land.

In May the government said solar projects should avoid this higher quality land where possible.

Instead, they should go on “brownfield land, contaminated land, industrial land, and lower quality agricultural land so as not to compromise the UK’s food security”.

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Coun Aitken said there were "acres and acres" of roofs on farm buildings and factories which could be used for panels, rather than greenfield.

Coun Denis Healy said councillors were "pretty powerless" and there were other major solar projects in the pipeline, including one at Tickton near Beverley.

Coun John Whittle said: "Do we back the government hurtling towards decarbonisation come what may or do we take a more strategic step back and look at what we are doing to our wonderful East Riding? We need to have the community with us on this and I don't think the community is sufficiently with us on this."

Coun Leo Hammond said it was a concern that only 2.8 per cent of urban areas in the East Riding were covered in solar farms and they should be doing more in urban areas. New housing estates will have solar panels. He said there should be a “massive push for as much landscaping as we can get”, adding: “If they get this right there should be a neutral impact – we need to get the landscaping right.”

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