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Letter: University’s Proposal for a Solar Farm Must Be Rejected

Published on: 5 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 5 Jun, 2023

From: Susan Parker

former GGG borough councillor

In response to: University of Surrey Solar Farm Plan on Green Fields is ‘Unconvincing’

I completely agree with this comment from the new chair of the Surrey Hills AONB board.

Without seeking planning permission to install cables, this solar array looks as if it might possibly be a back door subversion of AONB [Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty] status on our precious agricultural land. The proposal for solar arrays, without cables, just seems a blocking application with enough greenwashing attached to make it superficially appealing – until you look closely.

The University of Surrey does have form in promising one thing and then seeking to do another (the original planning permission for Manor Farm promised no further development, but then the university decided it wanted to develop Blackwell Farm too).

If the university had been serious about wanting to generate green energy, it could propose solar arrays on its car parks and buildings, which could almost immediately generate green energy. Building on the university’s car parks and roofs would be with easy short distance for the cables to the substation on Stag Hill.

An access road through AONB and AGLV [Area of Great Landscape Value] over and along a bridleway and public footpath should need truly exceptional circumstances that have not been substantiated so the application should be refused.

The application is timed to stop the expansion of the AONB on these fields and would in the future enable housing to be built on the site once it had become a solar farm and became pre-developed land.

Use of precious fields in the green belt, designated for AONB status, must surely be rejected.

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Responses to Letter: University’s Proposal for a Solar Farm Must Be Rejected

  1. S Callanan Reply

    June 5, 2023 at 4:31 pm

    There is an application by or on behalf of the university to establish whether the erection of a solar array on Surrey Sports Park buildings would be lawful.

    In the current climate why would anyone think it wouldn’t be? The output from this solar array is less than one twelth of what the university proposes on land west of Blackwell Farm (I think I’ve got the figures right) but that seems to indicate that if the university thought about it a bit, further sites on buildings could be found on the campus and a beautiful part of our area left well alone.

    The firm acting for the university in this matter is Terence O’Rourke whose website records a relationship going back more than 20 years, said to be of benefit both to the community and the university. They are “currently partnering with the university on a plan to build 1,850 new homes”. That’s a number larger than the plan for Wisley.

  2. Vik Howarth Reply

    June 6, 2023 at 9:20 am

    Solar energy is an energy source waiting to be harnessed and for the University of Surrey to delve into the science of it would be a benefit to us all.

    So I am in favour of them going ahead with it and would also favour the use of the technology being developed in other parts of the university. As this technology expands the design of the solar panels and how best to install them and just where they can be fitted is best handled as the result of academic study.

    With battery design also being a future need we could all benefit from the university’s approach to store energy not immediately required.

    • Harry Eve Reply

      June 6, 2023 at 12:49 pm

      Solar energy is not waiting to be harnessed. It was harnessed long ago to drive the evolution of biodiversity and humans followed by humanity harnessing it to boost our food supply and consequent population growth.

      The University of Surrey is seeking to rob us of food supply and wildlife for commercial gain via a propaganda exercise. Meanwhile, solar energy is waiting to be harnessed on the roofs of their buildings and over their car parks where it is currently wasted.

  3. John Oliver Reply

    June 8, 2023 at 8:48 am

    I agree with Vik Howarth that “solar energy is an energy source waiting to be harnessed”. There, we part company.

    Let the university experiment on its brownfield land before assaulting the green belt.

    I totally agree with Susan Parker that this application, without setting out the arrangements for cabling, seems like a blocking manoeuvre to stop the land being designated as part of the extension of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty currently under consideration. That would allow the university to change its mind down the line and go for further housing development in the area without the protections for AONB land coming into force.

    Either that, or it could put the solar array in for a number of years and then go for housing development on the basis that the area has become a brownfield site. The application documents try to make us think that the land will be returned to arable farming land at the end of the 35 years the university has applied for. And pigs might fly.

    One thing that Susan Parker has not mentioned is that by placing solar panels on the buildings and car parks, it will reduce the ‘heat island effect’ significantly. This is where solar gain on buildings and car parks is transformed into heat, released into the surrounding area and raises temperatures in those areas. Not only is such heat uncomfortable, it is dangerous to health.

    Placing the solar panels on the campus means that the solar energy is converted to electricity rather than being released into the atmosphere as heat. In these long periods of warm, dry weather we are now experiencing, this is becoming more and more important.

    If anyone wishes to object to this application its reference on the GBC website is 22/P/02178 – be quick, though, as I understand, though not confirmed, that the 21 June Planning Committee is due to discuss this proposal.

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