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Open Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Council & Residents in reply to WGC Solar's letter of 16/11/22

We understand that you have received a letter from WGC Solar Ltd concerning their proposals for a 100 acre industrial solar plant to be built on agricultural green belt land on the outskirts of Ayot St Lawrence. The letter was selective at best in the information provided and we would like to add some context to these proposals.

First, we would like to address the question of who the “end user” is. WGC Solar’s letter is trying to hide the fact that the energy generated by the proposed solar plant is for the sole use of Colt Data Services Ltd, which established itself in the old Summerfield premises in Welwyn Garden City in 2007. Colt itself is only mentioned once, in small print in thefootnotes, with no explanation as to who or what “Colt” is. In the letter itself there is simply a vague reference at one point to “the end user”, accompanied by spurious claims about equivalent household energy demand. The fact that they are seeking to obscure the fact that the solar plant is for the benefit of a single user speaks volumes.

How serious is Colt about truly satisfying its own demand from renewable sources? As the developers have acknowledged, the site selected will not generate sufficient energy to operate Colt’s site in WGC every day even during the height of summer. Overnight and in the winter it will provide virtually no electricity. Colt is seeking to permanently desecrate a beautiful area of local countryside while it continues to draw the majority of its energy from the grid. Surely, if it were serious, it would have found a site which was capable of producing sufficient energy, combined with battery storage, to meet all or of its energy requirements? The proposed site entails running a cable for 6 miles back to Colt’s premises. Within this same radius there are 12,000 square miles of land and thousands of acres of roof-space, including Colt’s own 5 acre premises, where there is not a single solar panel in sight.

Indeed, if Colt is concerned about releasing supply capacity back to the national grid, as it states in the letter, it could simply invest in a more efficient, more appropriately located source of green energy elsewhere in the country or offshore, for example a wind farm, while sourcing green energy from the grid.

Clearly, Colt’s overriding objective is to present a green PR front to its clients and investors - in common parlance, “green washing”. Colt’s Director of Energy and Sustainability had not, when we spoke to him recently, even taken the trouble to visit the proposed site. Being perceived as green is clearly more important to Colt than preserving its local environment.

Turning to the beautiful area of green belt which is the subject of this proposed development, Colt and WGC Solar are seeking to industrialise one of the most significant areas of Hertfordshire countryside: a precious heritage landscape which is roamed by herds of deer, is the setting for much visited historic villages, has been productively farmed for generations and is crossed by extensively used footpaths and bridleways which are a valuable amenity by the community, both local and from further afield. The continuing connection with George Bernard Shaw makes this a destination of international significance. Indeed, it would be difficult to conceive of a less appropriate site for a solar plant. The Council’s own Landscape Sensitivity Report classifies the land as High Sensitivity for development, perceptual aspects, settlement setting and visual prominence. This historic setting MUST be protected from industrialisation.

WGC Solar Ltd mentions in its letter and on its website remedial measures it will take such as installing new hedging. The solar plant comprises thousands of three metre high solar panels surrounded by security fencing and CCTV cameras: all in beautiful undulating countryside which is visible from miles away. Footpaths and bridlepaths run alongside and through the site and it is laughable to even suggest that screening the location is feasible. It is a complete impossibility to put in place any mitigation measures which would hide this proposed 100 acre industrial site.

We are confident Welwyn Hatfield Council’s planning department and councillors will see through WGC Solar’s smoke and mirrors. Its claim about reducing WGC’s carbon footprint should be seen for what it is – a very thinly veiled attempt to persuade councillors to override national planning policy and common sense in favour of the global energy crisis when numerous better options exist.

The National Planning framework is clear on the requirement to demonstrate very special circumstances to allow development in the green belt. And this site is as important as any green belt land gets. The global energy crisis is not a sufficient or valid reason to over-ride this legislation. Some people say “it has to go somewhere” but this is not a valid argument when there are so many alternative options available. If national and international matters are relevant (which they are not), there is also a food security crisis and this is productive agricultural land of a category which will be classified, according to government statements, as Best and Most Versatile. This development would be a travesty even if the local community were getting some benefit; and the fact that this is being pursued by a US owned multi- national for whom more environmentally friendly alternatives are available makes it unconscionable.


We hope that this letter goes some way to balancing the misleading picture provided by WGC Solar’s letter. For further information about the site, including drone footage of it, please visit stopwestwelwynsolar.co.uk.

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