PLANS for a new solar farm on 170 acres of land providing electricity to power about 13,000 homes have been given the green light.

Proposals were submitted at the end of last year to create a new solar farm at Hulam Farm, located off the A19 between Castle Eden and Hartlepool.

The planning application, submitted by Lightsource BP, went to officers at Durham County Council, who have now approved the scheme.

The development will take up 173 acres of land, a reduction in size from initial proposals which looked to take up around 200 acres, to reduce the visual impact of the site.

A report from council senior planning officer Chris Shields noted although the plans would have a visual impact on the area, it would provide a large boost for sustainable power in the region.

It said: “The proposed development would provide a significant renewable energy source using solar power sufficient to provide clean energy for approximately 13,000 homes whilst also reducing dependence on fossil fuel power stations.

“Further benefits of the scheme include significant biodiversity improvements to the site and direct employment to the construction industry.

“Although changes have been made, the proposal would still constitute development in the countryside resulting in landscape harm.

“However, efforts have been made to screen the solar arrays and from most views the visual impact would be minimal.”

Hartlepool Borough Council were also consulted on the proposals, and said they had no objections to the new solar farm.

However the response from council planning services manager Jim Ferguson, after consulting with officers did recommend 50 bat and bird boxes being included as part of the plans.

He said: “In conclusion HBC are supportive of the proposal overall and consider it would support the needs of the renewable energy industry, something that would be vital to combating climate change at a local level.

“The HBC Ecologist considers that for such a large development the offer of mitigation of only five bird nest boxes and give bar nest boxes seems low and they therefore recommend conditioning 50 of each, to give animals more choice.”

A design and access statement previously submitted on behalf of the applicant stated the scheme would hugely benefit the area.

It said: “The proposed 49.9MWp Solar Installation would result in a reduction in carbon emissions associated with energy generation equating to approximately 16,865 tonnes of CO2 per annum or the removal of approximately 3,588 family cars from the road each year. 

“The development supports the Government’s policy for the UK’s transition to achieving a low carbon economy and assists in meeting the pressing need for the deployment of renewable energy.” 

In total 24 letters of support from the public were received supporting the plans, pointing to the benefits of the development in terms of clean energy supply and assisting in reducing carbon emissions.

In contrast three letters of objections were received, raising the issues of landscape harm, visual impact and impact to property values.