Friday, June 21

Road vs Solar Energy at Fareham Borough Council

A while ago IG Vogt submitted a plan for a large solar farm on land in the south of Fareham Borough, just before the plan was to be discussed and voted on at Fareham Borough Council, the company withdrew the application after council officers and Natural England raised concerns about the project.

The alleged problem Natural England had with the project turned out to be one of communication between IG Vogt and Natural England, a mix up with maps etc.

Recently IG Vogt exhibited a revised project plan that they intend to submit soon. The revised plan reduces the size of the project and addresses the concerns of the borough officers and Natural England.

Meanwhile, various councillors and politicians have joined forces by supporting the building of a 'bypass' road, most likely on the same land that the solar farm would be built on.

Here is a summary of the story of the solar farm as told in The News over the last few months:

Sept 2012

The leader of Fareham Borough Council (Sean Woodward) apparently stated that the solar farm plan was a "shocking proposal" and "it would represent a loss of a significant area of countryside", then listed one positive attribute and three negative attributes about the project. The News then proceeded to use the "shocking" quote and theme in subsequent articles about the FBC leader and the solar farm project.

Fareham council boss hits out at plans for huge solar farm – 15 Sept 2012
Public urged to make voice heard on Stubbington solar farm plan – 19 Sept 2012
It’s big, green and may be heading to a field near you – 25 Sept 2012

Oct 2012

The News continues to report about the 'fears' of Cllr Woodward and stated that the project attracted criticism from the councillor.

‘Solar farm is Fareham’s future’ – 11 Oct 2012
Survey shows ‘public support’ for solar farm – 16 Oct 2012

Nov 2012

The News reports that more letters are to be sent out to reach a wider audience. Fareham Borough Councils leader is reported as stating that the "council is not taking lightly be any means", also "Councillors have put it in their newsletters".

Council sends just 13 letters on huge solar farm plans – 19 Nov 2012

Feb 2013

 IG Vogt withdrew their planning application for the solar farm project.
The council report indicated two main reasons for council officers advising against approving the project.

Planning application for Stubbington solar farm pulled – 13 Feb 2013

April 2013

So 8 months passed with negative remarks in the press about the solar farm from Fareham Borough Council. Throughout those months, there was a lot of talk about the 'Stubbington bypass'.
Firstly improvements to Newgate Lane appear to be on Fareham Borough Council leaders agenda and The News reported that he said things like "It's extremely good news" and "others which will benefit to".
In the same month The News printed an editorial asking for solar power to be given a chance.

Funding to ease jams on busy Gosport road – 4 April 2013
Solar power is here to stay, so give it a chance – 26 April 2013

May 2013

The News reports that the new transport boss at Hampshire County Council (also cllr Woodward) 'kick-started' work on the Stubbington bypass. The first 'act' of the councillor in the new position was to 'order updates to plans' for a bypass. The paper stated 'He wants to prepare the case for the road'.
The project also gained political support from the local Conservative association, yet there was no public support from them regarding the solar farm.

Later in the month the council leader made further comments about bringing forward the road scheme, that the project was 'vitally important' to the area, bringing 'economic prosperity' and improving 'quality of life'.

New roads boss putsStubbington bypass at the top of agenda - 28 May 2013
Transport chief Cllr Sean Woodward puts Stubbington bypass bid back on track - 28 may 2013

June 2013

Now in June Cllr Woodward confronted with a new solar farm proposal, was reported by The News that he was 'considering' a report about the Stubbington bypass!
Cllr Woodward is later reported mentioning that the bypass is for 'all of South Hampshire'.

Revised plans for solar farm will go on public show – 6 June 2013
Council to consult on Stubbington Bypass
Stubbington bypass cash must come from bid to government –13 June 2013

This 'timeline' of events is admittedly how The News reported the story, but I supsect the bias in enthusiam for the bypass is genuine. As always with these things (including climate science) it is the sum of all the parts that gives the full picture, not the cherry picked moments in time.

Since the story first broke it appears that Sean Woodward, the leader of Fareham Borough Council and South Hampshire Transport Committee Member at Hampshire County Council has been vocally negative towards the solar farm and vocally positive towards the road scheme. Throughout the period in question very little positive support is visible for renewable energy, or any mention of the benefits to the local community of reducing pollution, improving biodiversity and preventing climate change. In contrast, no negative impacts of a proposed bypass are mentioned, such as substantial roadworks, particulate pollution, loss of farm land, large scale use of concrete and other carbon hungry materials, greater capacity for car use, increased CO2 emissions and increased bird mortality (cars kill more birds than wind turbines), to name but a few.

In the last few weeks a DEFRA funded report on the threats and opportunities of climate change, pointed out that one of the threats was volatility of food imports into the UK. Countries will ban food exports to us as their own home markets become a higher priority. The reality is that local decisions have an international impact and that in turn has a local impact. Everything is connected, building roads will just aggravate the problem.

Supporting growth without dealing with the problem of low carbon energy provision, is going to result in serious problems in the future. People need jobs, but they need dry homes and food far more. Something that can only be provided by tackling climate change and that means solar/wind energy for the forseeable future.

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