Heritage rail campaigners protest Darlington’s solar park plans | So Good News


Objections have been raised to plans for a solar farm in Darlington, as patrons of the “world’s oldest modern railway” believe the proposals would destroy its heritage.

The objections come after Darlington Borough Council recommended approval of the scheme, with the planning application submitted by Aura Power Developments.

Both the Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR) and the S&DR Heritage Action Zone have submitted objections to the plans, which involve a solar panel farm on land north of Burtree Lane between Whessoe and Coatham Mundeville.

The campaign groups are protesting how the solar panels will be built up to the heritage line, destroying the landscape and leaving the view “ruined” for passengers on the popular attraction.

The objection from Friends of S&DR says: “The application identifies a number of distant views but does not consider the impact of the proposals on views from the A1(M) Durham motorway.

“This is across a rural landscape of gently rolling fields offering pasture for grazing cattle and sheep, providing a framework for the embankment of the S&DR not unlike when it opened in 1825. Such a setting would be completely destroyed by arrays of solar panels.

“Any proposal to shield the solar park from the motorway will obliterate the view and setting of the railway.”

The S&DR was originally built in 1825 and operated until 1863. It was the world’s first public railway to use steam locomotives and due to the lucrativeness of transporting coal it was able to extend to Middlesborough.

Friends of S&DR also believe that the solar farm will infringe on a number of historically significant assets and should be scaled down.

The objection adds: “Damage has been caused to the surroundings of the Grade II listed flyover at Whessoeville (designated heritage site), and the Myers Flat embankment which includes the Coatham Grange accommodation bridge (non-designated heritage site) as seen from the public footpath and the A1.

“The application acknowledges that there will be some damage to the embankment as seen from the public footpath that runs west of the line north to the accommodation bridge.

“This will replace open pasture foreland with arrays of solar panels. Furthermore, the footpath will run for around 150 meters between the arrays in areas six and eight, spoiling the atmosphere of the open landscape and affecting the location of the nearby Grade II listed overbridge. It should be noted that this bridge was recently listed by Historic England as an almost intact example of a pre-1840 railway, a designated asset.”

Meanwhile, the S&DR Heritage Action Zone believes the solar farm will have a negative impact on the visitor attraction of the railway line.

Its objection reads: “The proposed development does not preserve or enhance the S&DR and its surroundings, in fact in its current form it has a negative impact. It may also have a negative impact on the proposed development of the S&DR as a visitor attraction unless changes are made.” »

But according to a council response released as part of the application, the plans for the solar farm will not infringe on any of the route’s historic significance.

It says: “There would be extensive views of the arrays from trains on the northern section of the railway, but these would be both transient and seen against the backdrop of the A1. Despite the proximity of the proposals, some impact on the design of the railway line and embankments would be confined to its western side.

“Although the landscape will be altered, no effects on the understanding of the historical significance of the railway are predicted. It is considered that the residual effects of the proposed development will result in less than significant damage to the affected heritage sites.”

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