Large-scale Lincolnshire solar farm developer counters MPs' debate with its own survey research

The developer of a major solar proposed for land between Sleaford and Lincoln has offered new research to counter a debate due to be held in Parliament today (Thursday).
EDF Renewables UK claims its survey research reveals more people in Lincolnshire are in favour of solar energy. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphotoEDF Renewables UK claims its survey research reveals more people in Lincolnshire are in favour of solar energy. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
EDF Renewables UK claims its survey research reveals more people in Lincolnshire are in favour of solar energy. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

MPs on the Backbench Business Committee will discuss the issue of large-scale solar farms today in Westminster Hall from 12.30pm after the subject was raised by Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson.

Dr Johnson said: “This will be the next step in my work highlighting local residents’ concerns about the current large solar farm applications on a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’ scale in my constituency, and the current planning policies determining these sites.”

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She went on: “This is an issue which is deeply affecting many of the rural villages in my constituency, and on which many residents have fed back their views to me directly. I have received over 2,000 responses so far to my survey on large-scale solar farms which went out to local villages affected by the Springwell, Fosse Green, Beacon Fen and Heckington Fen proposals.”

A second stage of consultation on proposals for Springwell Solar Farm with battery storage, which is proposed for land between Metheringham and Ashby de la Launde, took place in January and February this year.

Now developers EDF Renewables UK say new research has shown that a majority of people who live in Lincolnshire support new solar farms and the benefits they can bring to communities.

Springwell Solar Farm 800MW project spanning 4,200 acres, would provide enough energy to power over 180,000 homes and is being developed by EDF in partnership with and Luminous Energy.

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EDF Renewables UK says research conducted in the period running up to the start of the consultation shows that people living in Lincolnshire support solar farms like Springwell.

According to their finding, the majority of those (77 per cent) who responded to a survey by Survation, conducted on behalf of EDF Renewables, said that they see climate change having an effect on their communities, with 82 per cent of respondents saying that they support the development of solar farms.

During the latest six-week consultation on proposals for Springwell Solar Farm, 11,835 letters were sent to local homes and businesses, while over 450 people attended events to learn about the proposals.

Although these findings do not seek locals’ views on large-scale solar farm developments, a spokesperson for the project said the survey was on “general attitudes towards different types of renewable energy (including solar) in Lincolnshire.”

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She added: “I understand that the debate on Thursday will also draw on survey results which explores general attitudes towards solar energy.

“The research conducted by EDF Renewables is separate from consultation activity undertaken on specific schemes, in this case for Springwell Solar Farm.”

Research for the survey was commissioned by Survation on behalf of EDF Energy. Fieldwork was conducted between November 17 and December 18 2023 and involved online interviews of adults aged 18-plus living in Lincolnshire. The sample size was 1,021, with differential response rates from different demographic groups taken into account.

Matthew Boulton, Director of Solar, Storage and Private Wire at EDF Renewables UK said: “We know that people in Lincolnshire are concerned about climate change, and projects like Springwell are an important part of the solution. If consented, Springwell would make a significant contribution to our country’s future energy supply and security.

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“We would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their views with us earlier this year. We are pleased to have received over 200 responses from the community, which will help us refine our proposals before submitting a planning application.

“Feedback from earlier public consultation, along with outputs of early environmental assessments and technical work, has already helped shape proposals for Springwell Solar Farm. Less than half of the site (42 per cent) is currently proposed to be used for generating and storing energy, with the rest of the site (58 per cent) proposed for mitigation, ecological enhancement or retained for agriculture use – including all fields of the highest agricultural quality (solely Grades 1 and 2).”

An application for consent for the Springwell Solar Farm is expected to be submitted to the Government later this year.

Local protestors gathered in their dozens to oppose the plans for Springwell Solar Farm at one of the consultation events in February at Blankney.

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Springwell Solar Action Group protestors unanimously said they are not against solar as a means of renewable energy, but would prefer projects utilise rooftop space in a community-wide effort, rather than agricultural farmland.

Marc Williams, 52, said it was the “sheer size of the development” that residents had a problem with.

“They are essentially destroying massive amounts of prime agricultural land for something that produces so little power in comparison to wind turbines.

“The locals are not anti-solar, but they are pro-reasonable solutions, and this has disenfranchised a huge number of people.”

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76-year-old resident Michael Credland asked how this would impact wildlife in the area, and how weeds and other growth would be maintained throughout the 40 years of solar farm usage.

“The beauty of the rural countryside is being destroyed,” he argued. “It feels totally political, and residents are having the wool pulled over their eyes. The only thing this will generate is profits.”