TEMPERS flared as representatives from the firm behind controversial plans to build a huge solar farm in Grimethorpe which could power thousands of homes were grilled at a packed residents’ meeting.
Taking place at St Luke’s Church last week, dozens of residents came forward to air their concerns in relation to a solar energy farm the size of 160 football pitches.
The huge site put forward by clean energy solutions company Enviromena comprises three land parcels made up of ‘low-grade’ agricultural field.
Two representatives from the firm, Lee Adams and Mark Harding, were on hand to answer any questions from residents regarding the plans and a flurry of negative comments were put forward.
The main concerns from attendees were dwindling green space, the size of the site, a potential drop in house prices and what exactly they will gain from the solar farm if it is approved.
Mr Adams, the firm’s European sales director, attempted to dispel the myths regarding solar farms.
He said: “There’s hopefully going to be more events like this planned. We’re hoping to submit a planning application to the council in the next couple of weeks.
"We’re a UK-based clean energy solutions company and have systems installed from Reading to the Egyptian desert.
“It will power around 22,000 homes and generate £100,000 a year in business rates.
“I can’t promise that there will be tens of thousands of jobs created, but we always use local labour where possible.”
Following a consultation period earlier in the year, the firm received around 200 responses after more than 2,000 letters were sent out.
Thomas Wilkinson, from Grimethorpe, questioned the Enviromena representatives on the potential of house prices dropping due to the introduction of the solar farm.
Mr Adams said: “I am not aware of any study that links solar farms to a reduction in house prices.
“There’s a lot of myths around solar projects.
“Solar is probably the quietest form of clean energy.
“There will be no noise pollution and there’ll be no permanent on-site lighting.”
Members of the meeting continued to grill the firm, with a number of residents questioning why they have chosen this site and whether or not this application, if approved, would create a precedent for more to be created in the borough.
Those present were told this would not be the case and that there are three rules for an acceptable site.
“Essentially you need three things for a solar project,” Mr Adams added.
“You need a willing landlord, access to the grid and low-grade land.
“This particular site is classed as low grade.
“It has previously been cropped but also it’s previously been the subject of a failed crop.”
The tensions continued to rise as residents felt they were not benefiting from the plans but will instead just see the negative side effects.
However, the two representatives say they are already working with local organisations so local people are able to benefit from the massive scheme.
After a meeting with Shafton Parish Council earlier in the year, Mr Adams confirmed that around £15,000 to £20,000 will be set aside for the authority to use in the area.
They are also in the process of working with St Luke’s Church to supply them with solar panels which would slash their energy prices.
Brian Smith, chair of Grimethorpe Residents’ Group, told the Chronicle: “I thought that it was a good meeting.
“It did get a bit robust at times but I think there were some people who wouldn’t like the plans no matter what would have been said.
“I do think that some of the things that were put to Lee and Mark were not appropriate.
“A lot of their questions will be discussed at the planning stage.”
Brian added that he does understand the concerns from residents but urged them to work with Enviromena so the area can benefit.
“I do agree that the plans are big,” he said.
“For me, it’s marginal and low grade land one side is used for horse grazing. If they do it properly then it could be a good plan.
“On some of the sites, because the solar panels are so high, there are sheep grazing and even a deer park. It will increase biodiversity.
“Obviously people are concerned and I can understand that but why don’t we co-operate with them to try and benefit as much as we can?”