Plans to build huge solar farm on contaminated former golf course

Halton Council wants to build a massive solar farm on a contaminated former golf course in Widnes.

It has submitted plans for a ‘solar microgrid’ on a 28-acre patch of land – roughly the size of 15 football pitches – at St Michael’s golf course north of Ditton Road and south of Speke Road.

Dubbed ‘Widnes Solar Park’, the proposed microgrid would generate four megawatts of energy and would serve local facilities operated by the council, including its municipal building HQ, Lower House Lane depot, DCBL Stadium and the new leisure centre on Moor Lane.

The council already operates a smaller solar farm on adjacent land which opened in 2020, but if the new plans are approved it would effectively quadruple capacity.

Microgrids are self-contained facilities which include arrays of solar panels and infrastructure such as battery storage and cabling designed to collect, process and distribute solar power.

The former municipal golf course was closed in 2004 on the advice of the Health Protection Agency, following the discovery of arsenic in the ground and outbreaks of leachate (contaminated liquid) from the waste mass in the northern section of the course. Plans to reopen it to the public following clean-up work were announced in 2016 but have so far not come to fruition.

A design and access statement submitted in support of the new scheme, said: “It is acknowledged that the site is allocated for employment uses, however, the site, which was formerly sued for waste purposes, is known to be contaminated, which is a significant visibility barrier to redevelopment for employment uses within the short to medium term.”

If approved, it would take around 13 weeks to build and be in place for 40 years, with an additional six months earmarked for decommissioning. It would be sited adjacent to an existing one megawatt farm that consists of 3,000 solar panels.

The report added: “The government expects each authority to contribute to meeting the (climate change) targets and reducing overall demand for energy. Communities have an important role to play in supporting energy generation from renewable or low-carbon sources. The proposed microgrid facility will make a significant contribution towards providing energy for the local areas and would reduce CO2 emissions.”

The plans can be viewed on the council’s online planning portal under the reference number 24/00234/HBCFUL.

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