A LARGE-SCALE solar farm could be built in Darlington if plans are backed by councillors.

Aura Power has submitted a planning application for the solar farm at Burtree Lane, Whessoe, an area of 62 hectares of agricultural land, currently utilised for grazing, located to the south-east of the A1(M) motorway.

The designated area of land is equivalent of around 86 football pitches. 

A residential development for up to 380 dwellings south of Burtree Lane and east of Whessoe Road benefits from an extant planning permission. The proposed Burtree Lane Solar Farm is over 600m to the nearest dwelling within this development at the closest point.

Aura Power says the subsidy-free solar farm will have a capacity of up to 49.9MW that would generate enough renewable electricity to supply the equivalent of around 14,400 typical homes or power the equivalent of over 17,000 electric vehicles.

The Northern Echo: The current Burtree Lane siteThe current Burtree Lane site

The Northern Echo: The scale of the solar farm has been revealed in planning documents The scale of the solar farm has been revealed in planning documents

It would offset an estimated 10,900 tonnes of CO2 per year, compared with electricity generated by gas, making a substantial contribution to local and national net zero targets. As well as generating clean, renewable energy, the proposal includes several habitat enhancements such as new trees and hedgerows, wetland areas, biodiverse grassland and wildflowers giving a biodiversity net gain of 46 per cent.

Aura Power says the development would help support the climate emergency which Darlington Borough Council recently declared.

Chris Featonby, UK development manager of Aura Power, said: “This site is excellently suited for the use of a solar farm as it has limited visibility and occupies, in part, a former landfill site.

“The landscaping proposals offer significant net gains in biodiversity, improving the natural environment and acting like a nature reserve. The land is owned by a local farmer that grazes sheep on the land and will be able to continue doing so once the solar farm is in place.”

The Northern Echo: The outlined area, at Whessoe, which could be transformed into a solar farmThe outlined area, at Whessoe, which could be transformed into a solar farm

Aurora Power adds that there would be “no long-term adverse effects on landscape fabric as no important, mature or diverse landscape components would be lost” after the construction of the solar farm.

The site is close to the Darlington North electricity substation where it will connect to the electricity grid.

A Community Benefit Fund of £17,500 a year for the 40-year lifetime of the solar farm (based on £350 per MW), is offered to the local community. This would amount to £700,000 in total with a proportion to facilitate local school trips and educational sessions to the solar farm.

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