PLANS have been unveiled to construct a solar farm across a huge expanse of farm fields between Darlington and Stockton.

Novenergy Ltd’s proposal would see photovoltaic panels installed 3.8m above the ground across a 230-acre greenfield site near the villages of Bishopton and Redmarshall.

The bi-facial arrays would operate on fixed panel or tracker system to make efficient use of the sun’s energy, and the capacity of the solar farm would be up to 49.9MW.

This is equivalent to the annual electrical needs of about 16,000 family homes.

Similar schemes have seen CO2 displacement of 25,000 tonnes a year, which when compared to conventional fossil fuel energy generation, represents an emission saving equivalent of a reduction in 8,000 cars on the road every year.

The plans remain at an early stage after the firm submitted documents to both Darlington and Stockton councils to get the planning process started last month.

While solar panels have consistently been shown to be the most popular form of renewable energy creation among British residents and the need for more British-sourced energy has been long established, government guidance to planners states the need for renewable energy must not automatically override environmental protections and the concerns of local communities.

However, the Novenergy documents state the proposed site would an opportunity to enhance biodiversity and strengthen ecological networks, particularly in relation to the onsite grassland and hedgerow resource. The papers state: “The solar panels are a temporary and reversible feature, after which they would be decommissioned allowing the site’s former agricultural use to be restored, with no likely significant lasting adverse impacts on the quality of the soil.”

The closest listed buildings are 490m away at Redmarshall, which includes the grade I listed Church of St Cuthbert, while Bishopton is a conservation area. The firm’s application says while there will be views into the site from some of the surrounding areas, the impacts were “unlikely to be significant due to natural vegetative screening”.

It states the effects of the proposals on the environment were not “considered to constitute significant effects “.