Ashford Borough Council’s Cabinet has agreed to a proposal for a solar farm project in Shadoxhurst. The 50 acre site (equivalent to 20 football pitches) was purchased by the council in 2017 and is currently used for grazing with little scope for alternative agricultural use.
It is believed that Ashford would be the first local authority in Kent to build and run its own solar farm, joining around 20 other pioneering councils across the UK in investing in such an eco-friendly initiative.
Following the procurement of advice from the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) the proposal is for a system 9MWp (9 megawatts or 9000KWp) in size and would directly feed the National Grid. Cabinet has agreed that, subject to planning approval and public consultation, a solar farm is the optimal use for the site and would provide a significant income stream while having a low environmental impact.
The installation would consist of rows of frames each holding several panels in order to have minimal impact on the ecology of the field and to enable grazing to continue. It is estimated that the project could generate £7m over a 25 year period, which supports the council’s entrepreneurial ethos, securing future council services in a challenging economic climate.
Following numerous reports on air quality the council is actively taking a shift to sustainable energy as a key element in tackling air quality issues. The project will also support the reduction of the borough’s carbon footprint and contribute toward tackling the climate change agenda.
The next step in the process is to carry out a local consultation with parish councils and the community which will inform the planning application. If the project then proceeds to a formal planning application then there will be a further statutory consultation. Further expertise would also be sought at planning and procurement stage from APSE.
Cllr Graham Galpin, portfolio holder for Corporate Property said:
“At Ashford Borough Council we are proactively seeking ways in which we can secure funding in order to continue providing the services our residents need.
“We also feel it is our duty to take the lead on improving air quality by producing electricity through greener, more sustainable means.
“Of course, we will be carrying out a comprehensive local consultation as part of the planning process and, should the project come to fruition I am confident that this project will enable us to secure income in a way that actually has a positive effect on our borough’s carbon footprint.”
Developing a solar farm will add to a corporate property portfolio which already includes office blocks, a shopping centre, Elwick Place cinema and leisure complex, industrial estates and a business park.