Sights set on solar energy and enhanced environment with Northwich development plan
Plans for an ambitious regeneration and green energy project for Northwich have been revealed this week as a group of businesses with a focus on renewable energy launched a public consultation ahead of seeking planning permission.
The group plans to create a solar power generation and battery storage facility on brownfield land owned by Tata Chemicals Europe (“TCE”), at Wallerscote, Northwich, which will be delivered in partnership between the local chemical manufacturing company, Green Earth Developments Group (“GED”) and Infinis Solar Developments Limited (“Infinis”).
Bringing a hat-trick of benefits to the local area, the ground-breaking project will create a sustainable renewable energy source, enhance 140 acres of former landfill and bring public recreational access to extensive areas of the Weaver valley for the first time in over 100 years.
The development will result in a commercial scale photo-voltaic solar array with the capacity to generate circa 20MW, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of approximately 8,000 homes. The project will deliver 100% renewable energy to supply the national grid and industry, potentially including TCE. Neatly tapping into TCE’s existing infrastructure, the project will make smart use of TCE’s high-voltage distribution network to provide a fast-track route to connect to the electricity grid, often a stumbling block for other renewable energy projects.
Not only will the plans generate significant renewable energy, in a boon for the local environment, the development is designed to comprehensively remediate the Wallerscote limebeds, which covers around 140 acres and deliver a long term land stewardship plan for future generations to enjoy.
Since the site’s operational closure in the early 2000s, rare grassland habitats have developed on the limebeds which risk being lost unless actively managed and the project will preserve and improve the habitat and biodiversity as part of TCE’s long-term conservation management plans.
The local community will be able to enjoy getting out in an area of nature they’ve not been able to access in 100 years, as the plans include the creation of a series of structured public footpaths stretching for almost 4km around the elevated perimeter of the site. With extensive views of the River Weaver and the surrounding countryside, this will be a valuable new recreational asset for the local area.
Due to careful design to incorporate the banks of the limebeds, much of the solar power installation will only be visible from footpaths on the site, and will not affect existing sight lines.
The scheme fits with TCE’s goals as it aligns closely with its key values of community, environment, innovation and care. It will be an important step in the organisation’s ambitious plan to be a net zero chemical manufacturer by 2030.
Martin Ashcroft, managing director of Tata Chemicals Europe, commented: ‘’Wallerscote Limebeds have previously been used for industrial purposes for over 100 years. It’s a complex site at significant scale which isn’t suitable for conventional uses. We’re excited to bring innovative thinking to make it work hard for the business and community on a number of levels.
‘’Dedicated to improving the local environment, we have a programme to identify ways to return our redundant land portfolio to productive and sustainable uses. It’s exciting to know that with this project, we are enabling community access to a site that has long been private land, enhancing the environment, whilst developing a commercially astute plan that has great sustainability benefits as well.’’
Whilst the scheme has significant positive benefits, TCE also recognise the sheer scale and complexity of the Wallescote limbeds sites, so to help realise these, TCE has partnered with leading specialists at Green Earth Developments and Infinis to design and implement the project.
GED’s Simon Towers commented: “As an ethical development company we are delighted to be part of the partnership team delivering this sustainable project. Through the remediation process and beyond into the long-term land stewardship plan, we would like to work closely with the local community to ensure this site becomes and remains a community asset for future generations. We are looking forward to meeting local residents at the community event on 8th June.”
Andy Leeding from Infinis commented: “The Government’s energy security strategy focusses on the need to increase UK renewable energy generation, while also seeking to decarbonise the UK electricity system by 2035. Renewable energy development has never been more important. Infinis is excited to be working alongside Tata and GED on this project, to bring its experience at developing, owning and operating solar on landfill sites to the valuable objective of repurposing this brownfield site.”