Blackberry Lane Solar Park
From Jerry and Lydia Morris
a) Loss of Productive Agricultural Land - The farmland proposed for this development is mostly Grade 2 and Grade 3A in terms of productivity according to the Welsh Government Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) interactive map. Conversely large swathes of the farmland in Pembrokeshire are classified as Grade 3B and below, so quite clearly a prime food production asset would be removed by allowing the development at this site to proceed, when there are clearly other less valuable areas of farmland more appropriate for such development.
b) Visual Impact. This proposed development is located at the bottom of a shallow valley, directly alongside the A477 and will be visible for miles around. Keeping in mind that aside from agriculture, tourism is the primary source of revenue in Pembrokeshire, the developer should have considered a more sympathetic site to ensure the impact on tourism (and agriculture) was minimised. A number of local businesses who operate B&B and self catering accommodation have expressed concern about the negative impact this development will have on their businesses, and their ability to attract tourists into the area once this development is complete, reduction in tourism will obviously will have a knock on effect on the wider economic environment.
c) Environmental Impact, the area around this proposed development, sustains a wide diversity of wildlife, including badgers, foxes, weasels, buzzards, red kites, woodpeckers, etc., all of which would be negatively impacted by the development. In addition the majority of the development site is within an NRW designated Source Protection Zone (SPZ) which the build phase of the development puts at risk of groundwater contamination. There is a large pond adjacent to the proposed site near where Upper Nash Farm Shop and Cafe used to be (OS Ref SN 00956 03285) this has extensive aquatic like including dragonflies, frogs, newts, freshwater fish, and visiting migrant birds such as herons and egrets. The developer makes no mention of the steps being taken to protect this site which because of the large numbers of flying insects also attracts foraging bats in the warmer months.
d) Danger of increased accidents on A477, This development is opposite the Fingerpost junction between the A477 and the A4075, a notorious accident blackspot, this development will undoubtedly lead to an increase in incidents at this already dangerous junction, both during the development phase and on completion of the site. During the build phase adjacent roads such as the Upper Nash turning on the A477 opposite Blackberry Lane will become considerably more hazardous with the presence of large lorries and other site vehicles. The development will certainly cause increased risk to cyclists using the cyclepath established by PCC on the north side of the A477 and running alongside the proposed development site.
e) Cost of Decommissioning, I understand that Solar Parks have a finite lifespan (c.40 years), if this is the case then the developer and/or landowner should make secure provision for the cost of decommissioning and reinstatement of the land to its original condition, this obligation should not fall to taxpayers if for example Wessex Solar Energy should cease to trade.
f) Overdevelopment of Solar Generation around Cosheston, as there are already 2 large existing Solar Parks in the Cosheston area within less than 1 mile of the development site, one located at the western end of Point Lane and the other on Myletts Hill. Allowing this development to go ahead would effectively surround Cosheston with Solar Parks to the NW, SW and E. Without providing the community with a single benefit in terms of employment or revenue.
g) Landowner Issues, it would seem that the primary reason for choosing this site was the landowners willingness to change the use of the farmland in exchange for payment, rather than being selected on the basis of the best site for solar generation. Wessex Solar make vague references about seeking other sites, but what real assessment was made of suitable alternatives? The development would appear to be driven more by financial opportunism than selecting the best site for both the environment and residents of the area.
h) Covid Pandemic, by their own admission Wessex Solar have been unable to carry out a proper public consultation due to the current pandemic, their alternatives have been inadequate, especially for those without access to MS Teams, for example Wessex Solar Energy has not responded to 2 emails (5th August & 24th November 2020) sent by myself seeking responses to objections in spite of their claimed willingness to engage with the community. Therefore the obvious course would be to place all decisions relating to this development on hold, until the current pandemic is over and the public can be properly consulted.
I am also very concerned about the credentials and accountability of this company as a developer. The company was only formed 18 months ago, with a single £1 share, and according to Companies House records (Co number 12226450) only has a single director. What is the source of funding for this project and what experience if any does Wessex Solar Energy Limited have of such projects? What security is in place if the developer should cease to trade during or after the project has commenced? Will profits from this venture be reinvested in the local area? In Pembrokeshire? In Wales? or even in the UK? Has the Welsh Government seen the business case for this development? if so shouldn’t this be made public? All these issues could be properly raised at a proper public consultation after the end of the pandemic to ensure the transparency of this process.