11:47am Monday 17th February 2014
THE former secretary of state for Wales, Lord Crickhowell, is rallying behind an environmental campaign against a 32,000- solar panel park near the country’s largest ancient forest.
Tory peer Lord Crickhowell has added his voice to concerns about proposals to open the 45-acre park a mile and a half from Wentwood Reservoir, at Buckwell Farm, in Pen-y-Cae Mawr.
Campaigners fear the facility would become an eyesore that could “industrialise” the Monmouthshire countryside and turn tourists away from Wentwood Forest’s ancient woodlands.
They also oppose the plans on health and safety grounds, as research suggests solar parks can leak potentially harmful levels of lead and cadmium into the soil and watercourses.
Shirenewton Community Council agreed to back the campaigners at a public meeting last month.
Other objectors include the South Gwent Ramblers and the former secretary of state for Wales, who has submitted a written objection to Monmouthshire Council.
Lord Crickhowell, 79, said: “It impinges on an important site.
“The impact here would be on a beautiful and unspoiled landscape: Wentwood is rightly a Special Landscape Area, and the site abuts a local wildlife site of importance.
“Among many issues that have not been properly addressed are the impact of power lines on the countryside.
“Public consultation has been non-existent or totally inadequate.”
The Buckle Chamberlain Partnership, which is behind the solar park plans, said it had taken advice from the local authority and private ecologists.
Its multi-million-pound facility would power 2,120 homes, saving 3,286 tonnes of co2 emissions a year.
The partnership was unavailable for comment yesterday, but its director, Glynn Buckle, previously said the site was not prime agricultural land, adding that it was seen as suitable because it is well screened.
Monmouthshire councillors are to make a decision on the proposals at a forthcoming planning committee expected to take place in early February. For more information, log on to monmouthshire.gov.uk.
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