New plans for solar farm at former colliery site

Plans to build a solar farm and battery energy storage on a former colliery in Bedworth have been resubmitted. Last year, the proposals at the restored former Newdigate Colliery off Bedworth Lane, and Astley Lane were lodged with the borough council.

But then, after an ecology officer from warwickshire-county-council>Warwickshire County Council objected to the scheme on planning policy reasons, the proposal was withdrawn last July.

However, the proposal has now been resubmitted to Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council for consideration. In it, it says that the solar farm and associated infrastructure at the former Newdigate Colliery site will have an export capacity of 6MWh of electricity, enough to power over 1,600 homes per year four and offset approximately 1,750 tonnes of CO2 every year, the equivalent of taking over 400 cars off the road.

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It adds that the battery storage element will have a capacity of 5MVA. In regards to the issues previously raised, the design and access statement explains that it has looked into a number of areas.

This includes the Local Wildlife Site designation across the site, the requirement for an Alternative Site Search Assessment, and the rationale for choosing the former Newdigate Colliery site rather than the surrounding land, for the proposed development.

It also says that the site is unofficially used by walkers and dog walkers for recreational uses without consent of the landowner. As part of the proposal, a dedicated footpath will be provided through the site, with the intention that it will be a permissive right of way.

"The site was once a colliery which ceased operations and closed in 1982," the plan adds. "From the 1990’s inert recycling and soil importation has taken place to enable restoration of the area. A soil survey and Agricultural Land Classification report was produced in support of this application. The survey concluded the application site as non-agricultural land."

Wildlife and location

In regards to the chosen location, the report says: "The key factors to identifying the location of a solar farm and BESS is proximity to available grid capacity. Once grid capacity has been identified, the distribution network operator provides a point of connection. It is from this point onwards that the developer has some control to determine the best location for the solar farm and BESS. Distance from the point of connection, potential planning and environmental constraints, and a willing landowner will then determine the location and extent of an application site."

Regarding concerns about the impact on local wildlife, it explains that an enhanced offsite land will be created to provide 'adequate compensation for all potential habitat losses onsite."

"The enhancements have been designed to replicate all key habitats found at Newdigate Colliery LWS (Local Wildlife Site), and being partially bounded by woodland and hedgerows, the field has ecological strategic significance, improving the habitat network in the wider Arbury Estate."

The plan is now being looked at by officers at the Town Hall. As part of this, the public can have their say on the proposals.

They can be found on the council's website, under the planning section searching for reference number 040290. The deadline for all comments is June 8.

A decision is set to be made on the application by August 9.

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