Huge solar farm to be built on 50 hectares of farmland in North Yorkshire will power 15,000 homes

The go-ahead has been given to a solar farm which will be built over 50 hectares of Harrogate farmland and power around 15,000 homes a year.

The land near South Stainley

Harrogate Borough Council approved the scheme near South Stainley which was hailed by councillors as a move to “bring the battle to save the planet right to our doorstep” but opposed by some locals who said it will industrialise the countryside.

Elgin Energy is behind the plans first submitted two years ago and said the site will generate just under 50MW per year.

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The solar farm will operate for 30 years and span across farmland the equivalent of about 70 football pitches.

At a meeting on August 24, Councillor Pat Marsh spoke strongly in favour of the plans. She said: “I can see the concerns of those who live close by, but if you go down the A30 into Cornwall, there are solar panels all the way down.

“If you go into the centre of Spain and you are coming down the mountains… there are huge solar farms there, and I do not hear anybody shouting and screaming.

“And the reason we are not shouting and screaming about these things is because we have seen, particularly this year, the impact of global warming. We can’t sit by and let that continue. We have got to be proactive.”

Coun Jim Clark said: “This scheme is worth supporting because it brings us straight to the green agenda. It will also bring the battle to save the planet right to our doorstep. I know this might be uncomfortable for some people who live nearby, but we need to make sacrifices.”

The concerns from residents are that the solar farm will result in the loss of agricultural land and spoil countryside views.

Speaking at the meeting, Tim Read, a member of South Stainley with Cayton Parish Meeting, said: “This isn’t a clear cut decision. There are coherent arguments from both sides of the debate. Let’s face it, who isn’t keen on green energy production. But then who isn’t for sustainable design, preservation of the natural environment and conservation of rural character.

“This development is in the wrong place, of an inappropriate scale and form, and can not comfortably be incorporated into the existing or even enhanced landscape that the applicant has proposed.”

Andrew Mott, an agent for Elgin Energy, said “considerable care” had been put into the plans which include tree planting and hedgerows to block views of the site.

These measures were backed by council planning officers who recommended the solar farm for approval ahead of today’s meeting.

Councillors unanimously voted in favour of the plans. A total of 58 residents had lodged objections online, while 85 wrote in support of the scheme.