PLANS for a huge new solar panel farm have taken a step forward.

Tata Chemicals Europe (TCE) has officially submitted plans to create a solar energy park and battery storage facility in Northwich.

If approved, 40,000 solar panels will be installed at Wallerscote lime beds, capable of generating enough electricity to power around 8,000 homes.

Phil Davies, general counsel and compliance director at TCE, said: “As an energy intensive industry, we are already implementing multiple routes to build on our success so far in decarbonising not only our operations but also playing our part in decarbonising the UK more generally.

“We have a portfolio of redundant, brownfield land.

“By looking at this portfolio from different perspective, we can create renewable energy opportunities, improve the local environment and realise commercial value, achieving real benefits not only for TCE and our partners, but also for the UK decarbonisation targets, the environment and our local community.”

Northwich Guardian: The plans for Wallerscote LimebedsThe plans for Wallerscote Limebeds (Image: Tata Chemicals Europe)

“We’ve had a very positive response from the local community so far and we’ve already had a number of volunteers to take part in the Local Liaison Committee which will be set up once the planning consent has been granted.”

The scheme will look to transform land which had been used for over a century by TCE and its predecessors as part of chemical manufacturing operations.

The lime beds were built in the 1930s and 1940s to contain calcium solids produced by the former neighbouring Winnington Alkaline Chemical Works and subsequent Wallerscote Works.

The site closed to new waste in 2002.

TCE has said that it will look to preserve the biodiversity which has established itself on the land since then, as well as look at enhancing the 140-acre site, creating a new recreational public space with a network of riverside footpaths.

The firm says that this project will allow them to deliver renewable power around 10 years quicker than similar projects, as they already have a connection to the electricity grid.

Mike Amesbury, MP for Weaver Vale, has welcomed the plans.

He said: "Over the past 150 years manufacturing has been integral to Northwich, so it's really exciting to see this area leading the way, embracing the renewable energy revolution we so desperately need.

"We're keen to see how this model will be replicated by other organisations who hold similar plots of unused land with access to the grid." 

However, not all are as keen on the idea.

In a letter submitted to the planning department, Northwich town councillor Lee Siddall said: “My concerns primarily revolve around the potential negative impact this project could have on the Winnington Bridge and the local road network, specifically due to the significant increase in HGV movements.

"The capacity of Winnington Bridge raises significant concerns. Originally designed to handle lower traffic volumes, the proposed increase in HGV movements could place excessive strain on the bridge's capacity.

"This is likely to result in increased congestion, traffic delays, and potential safety hazards for road users.”

READ MORE: Councillors object to planned solar park over 'intolerable' traffic

The project will be run in partnership with Green Earth Developments Group (GED) and Infinis Solar Developments Limited.

Andrew Leeding, from Infinis, which will develop, build, and operate the project, said: “Many businesses are custodians of considerable portfolios of brownfield land that may have existing grid connections but do not realise their potential.

"These businesses could accelerate the pace of renewable energy generation uptake in the UK.

“The approach for this project provides a route for others to follow, showing how industrial businesses can use what they already hold to make a sustainable economic and environmental contribution."

Simon Towers from GED, who will deliver the remedial works and long-term habitat management, added: “As an ethical development company GED is championing the re-purposing of brownfield sites for renewable energy and natural capital projects.

"There is no reason these sites, which are constrained by previous industrial use, cannot be brought back to play important roles in the journey to Net Zero and lessen reliance on greenfield sites."