Race on to get Long Sutton solar park under way

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A RACE against time is under way to turn plans to extend a solar park in Long Sutton into reality.

Long Sutton Butterfly and Wildlife Park owners Peter Smeaton and Michael Crosse have until August to get their latest eco plans off the ground because of a government U-turn on financial incentives for solar power schemes.

Mr Smeaton already has planning permission for a solar park but a second application has now been submitted to South Holland District Council to extend the photovoltaic (PV) solar panels into a neighbouring field.

It is hoped the extension will provide enough energy to power the nearby Peele Community College and Peele Leisure Centre.

However, the government has announced it will cut feed-in tariffs (an incentive known as clean energy cashback) on schemes above 50 kilowatts – effectively anything bigger than an average primary school roof.

Mr Smeaton says their plans – together with three other projects planned for the village – would be about five megawatts.

Mr Smeaton said: “It’s £15million or nothing. That’s the reality here. We are looking at the whole thing going ahead and £15million being spent and job creation.

“With that there are low energy costs for government buildings and a brilliant new attraction for education.”

He says they are now aiming to meet the deadline running “as fast as they can” and their case is also being promoted at government level.

He hopes cash can be ring-fenced for the project if they miss the deadline.

Mr Smeaton says there will be no community consultation meetings for the new plans, except for that included in the standard council planning process.

He said: “The time frame does not allow it and we have been through that process. We know what the objections were and we overcame that.”

He said discussions have been on-going with an investor, who would run the solar park on a day-to-day basis.

Mr Smeaton added: “We have to keep going. Long Sutton needs something like this. South Holland needs something like this.

“We could end up being one of only seven or eight solar farms in the UK that go ahead.”