AN 80-hectare solar farm development across farm fields and open countryside close to the main gateway to a market town could save more carbon emissions than are produced by 4,300 cars or 2,300 homes’ energy use, it has been claimed.

Ritchie Bland Energy Limited and Harmony Energy Limited said the solar scheme be south of the Darlington Road, between Richmond, Skeeby, Easby and Brompton on Swale, and remain in place for 40 years, before the site reverts to farmland.

A number of councillors representing Richmond said they had been unaware of the firms’ plans and while they wanted to support the development of renewable energy schemes, they had been taken aback over both the proposed site and scale of the scheme. Previously, councillors have moved to approve similar schemes in North Yorkshire in remote or well screened locations.

Documents submitted to Richmondshire District Council, which has declared a climate emergency, state if connected to an existing Northern Power Grid substation next to the site, the array of panels would be capable of producing up to 49.5MW of energy, which would save over 20,000 tonnes carbon dioxide a year.

The firms have asked the authority to consider whether a a Environmental Impact Assessment - a process of evaluating the likely environmental, socio-economic, cultural and human-health effects of proposed developments - will be necessary to push the scheme forward.

Papers lodged by the firms states the site remains in agricultural use and boundary hedgerows and other vegetation are located around the site, which would be retained “wherever possible”.

The proposal adds “an attractive landscaping and biodiversity enhancement scheme” would see boundary trees and hedges reinforced and new planting, following a detailed review of the site.

A spokesman for the firms states: “The development proposed will not, in our opinion, have any significant environmental effects linked to the site’s location and environmental characteristics, or its proposed scale. The site comprises 150 hectares, although it is intended that of this, only approximately 80 hectares will be developed for the above purposes. It is considered that a solar development of this size and in this context would not necessarily give rise to significant environmental effects simply due to its size and given the nature of and location of the proposals.”

The documents state while the site is located near to designated sites of special scientific interest - Richmond Meadows and Gingerfields - the separation of the site by roads and vegetation would stop the solar farm from impacting on the special sites, which include grassland of a type that is “rare and threatened at the local and national levels”.

The documents add: “It is not considered that the proposed development would lead to significant environmental effects with regards to its landscape and visual impacts, on landscape character or visual and residential amenity.”

Richmond town, district and county councillor Stuart Parsons said he had numerous concerns over the potential environmental impact of the scheme.

He said: “These fields would be allowed to be built upon and new housing is necessary. This would create a brownfield site with a huge acreage.”