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Climate Politics Rhondda Cynon Taf South Wales

18,000 panel solar farm in Hirwaun approved

Stock picture of solar panels (Pic: Mark Stebnicki via Pexels)

A SOLAR farm with 18,000 panels will be built in the northern Cynon Valley after councillors gave it the green light.

Officers recommended approval for the plans for the solar farm on Rhigos Road in Hirwaun and Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT)’s planning committee voted in favour of it at a meeting on Thursday, June 6.

The development will be built south of Rhigos Road and approximately 800m to the east of the settlement of Rhigos over four agricultural fields

The Proposed Solar Farm Would Be About 800m East Of Rhigos And South Of Rhigos Road (Pic: Google Maps)

It will cover an area of around 16 hectares and will have an energy capacity of 9.88MW (MegaWatts) with each field accommodating between 17 and 27 rows of southward facing photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Access will be provided off Rhigos Road to the south.

There will be a total of 18,144 ground mounted PV panels, a substation enclosure, a customer switchgear enclosure, a low voltage transformer station, a crushed stone maintenance track, security fencing and fixed CCTV cameras.

Details submitted with the application suggest that the proposed solar farm will be operational for 40 years, after which it will be removed and the land reinstated to its current condition.

There will be no site-based staff during the operational phase of the development, other than for inspections and maintenance.

There was one objection from the public which raised concern with regards to the proximity of the proposed solar farm to an existing residential dwelling on Rhigos Road.

They also said that the development will ruin the view from the adjacent residential property and that the backs of the metal frames of the solar frames, which will be approximately 7ft in height and unsightly, will be visible from the property.

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They said there will be wind noise created by the solar farms and that the development will result in noise and disruption during construction and maintenance which will impact on their quality of life.

They said that the development will devastate wildlife in the area and that the development will be surrounded by security cameras which will infringe on their privacy.

They added that the development is also likely to create health issues, a solar farm has already been constructed off Rhigos Road and that the view down from Rhigos Mountain viewpoint will be full of “ugly solar panels.”

In recommending approval, officers said: “The provision of a solar farm in this location will result in a considerable contribution to the local authority’s commitment to becoming ‘net zero’ in terms of its carbon footprint by 2050.

Further, it will greatly assist in the delivery of clean, renewable energy which provides clear environmental benefits.

“It is accepted the proposed development will inevitably result in a degree of impact to the character and appearance of the area, but subject to appropriate conditions/mitigation, it is considered any potential impact would not be unacceptable.

“Finally, it is not considered there would be any undue impact to the amenity levels currently enjoyed by the closest neighbouring residents, and the impact of the scheme upon ecology and land drainage can be properly mitigated.”

They said the development represents a medium scale solar farm development that would contribute to the Welsh Government’s commitment to optimising renewable energy generation.

They added that the application site is not protected by any statutory designations and the proposal has taken into account the need to protect the existing landscape features and ecological resources provided within the site.

They said: “Although the development will inevitably have some impact on the appearance of the countryside, the proposal would be contained, has limited visibility, is temporary and gains support from other local policies including AW6 (protecting and enhancing landscape features) and AW12 which permits renewable energy schemes provided there are no unacceptable effects on the interests of soil conservation, agriculture, nature conservation, wildlife, natural and cultural heritage, public health and residential amenity.

“In addition to this, no objections have been raised by statutory consultees with respect to the potential impacts upon either the amenity of nearby residential properties, highway safety or ecology.”

Councillor Sharon Rees, the chair of the committee, said Rhigos and Hirwaun is becoming a major generator of energy and it’s good to see the development of renewable energy.

Councillor Scott Emanuel said the existing solar farm doesn’t detract from the views and that he’s sure this one won’t and said where that where they once mined coal they are now producing clean energy.

Councillor Danny Grehan said Wales is a net explorer of power and said he’s not sure they need these types of developments adding that he does thing solar farms are harmful to views.

But he said considering the history of the site of the coal mine and the fact there was only one objection meant he wouldn’t object to it.

Councillor Ross Williams said it was a good development and that he would certainly support it.