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Urban solar park vs urban green space

  • by JW

The University of Exeter is to build a solar farm on Duryard Park


One of the main arguments against solar farms is that they are a “toxic blot on the landscape” – and yet much of the impact can be overcome by such ideas for solar panels over car parks in urban areas, agrivoltaic solar farms (ie, growing crops and rearing livestock under solar panels) and several ways to promote and enhance biodiversity.

In which case, what the University of Exeter is proposing seems to be very disappointing, as a picturesque Exeter valley park is to be covered by solar panels – which is managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust as this charming video shows:

An introduction to Duryard & Belvidere Valley Park, Exeter – YouTube

Last month, Exeter City Council approved the university solar farm in Duryard Valley – as reported by the Exeter Observer:

The university owns the publicly-accessible Duryard Valley site, which is a designated a Site of Nature Conservation Importance and is a County Wildlife Site. It says the solar farm will generate up to 3% of the energy it consumes each year. Local plan policy LS4 says that “development that would harm a site of nature conservation importance or a site of local interest for nature conservation […] will only be permitted if the need for the development is sufficient to outweigh nature conservation considerations.”

plans for a six acre 1.07MWp solar farm and electricity substation in Duryard Valley 

Several city councillors pointed out at the meeting that the university has not yet installed solar panels on the roofs of most of its buildings or on canopies above its extensive car parks. Liberal Democrat Michael Mitchell cited the 1,200-bed East Park development on the other side of the campus as an example, as it was built without any renewable energy generation capacity.

Conservative Anne Jobson said she thought that until all the university’s roofs and car parks had been covered with solar panels there could not be a need for development that would cause such harm in direct conflict with local plan policies. Labour’s Martin Pearce (who is not a committee member) added that the development site is a valuable informal space for leisure, recreation and active travel in one of the worst areas in the city for active travel infrastructure.

However when it came to the decision his party colleagues on the committee all voted in favour with the Green Party’s Andy Ketchin in support. Four opposition members – Alison SheridanAnne JobsonCarol Bennett and Michael Mitchell – voted against.