£30,000 fighting fund may be needed to pay for Knebworth solar farm lawyers at public inquiry

Knebworth resident Nick King is concerned with the plans to build a solar farm in nearby farmland wi

Knebworth resident Nick King is concerned with the plans to build a solar farm in nearby farmland with Stevenage town in the distance - Credit: Archant

Three parish councils are working out how to raise as much as £30,000 to pay for lawyers to help fight plans for a solar farm in Knebworth when they go to a public inquiry later this year.

The councils in Knebworth, Datchworth and Woolmer Green are in talks to stump up around £15,000 between them to fight the Solstice Renewables solar farm.

The rest of the money could be fundraised by crowd funding, but nothing is set in stone yet.

The plan for Swangleys Farm in Swangleys Lane got the green light from North Herts District Council in December but has now been listed for a public inquiry by the government.

Concerns were raised by all three parish councils during the planning process that the site was in a raised area in the Green Belt, said Woolmer Green clerk Janet Pearce.

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Datchworth clerk Wendy Prowle said up to £30,000 would be needed for legal help, but could not confirm how much money the parish could commit.

Solstice Renewables boss Giovanni Maruca said: “There is a big question here: Was the decision to call in the application politically motivated?

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“Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland asked us to withdraw the application from the outset, and he has ignored three invitations to meet us.

“The North Herts planning committee voted strongly to support the application, recognising the benefits outweighed the limited harm to the Green Belt. We expect the planning inspector to reach the same conclusion – but will we get a fair hearing from the Secretary of State?”

Mr McPartland said: “I asked the Secretary of State to call the application in because the application borders two local authorities, and the residents who were most affected were not even given a voice.

“There had been very little time for consultation and I agreed with the concerns of Datchworth Parish Council and local residents.”

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