Plans submitted for new solar farm as part of major Frome development

By Susie Watkins

22nd Jan 2022 | Local News

Plans have been submitted for a new solar farm which will provide power for a major new development in Frome.

The Selwood Garden Community (SGC) proposals, if approved, will deliver 1,700 new homes at Frome's southern edge over a 15-year period, along with employment units, a new school and other amenities.

The master plan put forward by Land Value Alliances includes a substantial solar farm at the eastern edge of the development area, either side of the railway line.

Formal plans for the solar farm have now been submitted to Mendip District Council, with a decision expected to be made before the summer.

The solar farm site is divided into two sections, split by the railway loop serving Frome railway station on the Bristol to Weymouth line.

The majority of the panels will be located within the western section, which is bordered by Birchill Lane and Feltham Lane before the latter moves under the railway line.

A smaller number of panels will be built within the eastern section, with access being provided from Feltham Lane at the south and the section being bordered by the River Frome on two sides.

As part of the proposals, a community orchard will be created in the south-eastern corner of the western section, and an existing footpath through the site will be diverted and improved.

Under the wider SGC proposals, Birchill Lane will be turned into a "greenway", restricting car use in the area and providing a footpath link between the new homes and the town centre.

A spokesman for Grassroots Planning (representing the applicant) said: "The proposed solar park would allow the proposed mixed-use SGC development to go above and beyond relevant planning policies related to energy use, if approved alongside this application.

"It would provide clean renewable energy for use in the town, alongside extensive ecological and biodiversity enhancements, which when combined will offer an educational resource for local schools and environmental education.

"It would benefit the Frome community by using a proportion of surplus income to support local community projects such as community-led net zero transition initiatives.

"Local people will be able to invest in the solar park through a community share offer."

The Friends of the Somerset River Frome have objected to the plans, claiming they will hamper efforts to protect and restore the river for public enjoyment.

A spokesman said: "We object to any part of the built infrastructure, including the solar panels, being constructed in flood zone 2. All land within flood zones 2 and 3 [those more prone to flooding] should remain undeveloped.

"We are supportive of legitimising public access to the north of the site (under the railway bridge), but appropriate restorative work will be required at this location as it can be impassable during the winter and when the river is high.

"We object to the diversion of the existing public footpath, on the south side of Feltham Lane, which is well-used by local residents.

"The proposed diversion moves the path to the lower part of this field, which gets waterlogged in winter."

The council will make a decision on the solar farm plans in the coming months, while a ruling on the wider SGC proposals is likely to occur later in 2022.

It is not currently clear whether either or both applications will be considered in public by the council's planning board, as opposed to being decided through the delegated powers of planning officers.

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