Large-scale solar farm proposed for East Devon farm could power 15k homes

A solar farm the size of 79 football pitches has been proposed for an area of East Devon between the village of Clyst Hydon and hamlet, Lower Tale.

Becca Gliddon eastdevonnews.co.uk 

The plans, put forward by Lightrock Power who develops large-scale solar farms, cover an area of around 64 hectares – approximately158 acres – which could power the equivalent of 15,000 homes or 19,000 electric vehicles.

The developer said it will hold an online public exhibition in late spring in a bid to consult the community on the application.

The solar farm developer has launched an online information point for early feedback, which can also be given by phone, letter and email.

Lightrock Power said the Paytherden Solar Farm project was in the ‘early phases’ of development and was currently ‘being planned and assessed’ by its team.

Chris Sowerbutts, Lightrock Power founder and director, said: “We are keen to talk about our proposals for Paytherden solar farm.

“We would really like the local community to be involved in the process leading up to any planning application being submitted, and would appreciate early feedback and views.”

The farm where Paytherden is proposed to go is managed by Jon and Louise Burrough, who believe using the land to produce green energy will benefit the community and environment.

The couple said: “Climate change is the biggest threat our species has ever faced and everyone must make an effort.

“As custodians of a small part of the countryside, we’re in a unique position to play our part.

“Electricity use over the next thirty years is set to double, with half of all cars on the roads likely to be electric in the next five years.

“Therefore, the need to produce green energy to meet with this demand is crucial.”

Mr and Mrs Burrough added: “We are committed to caring for the environment and this is reflected in the way we farm.

“Over the past forty years we’ve planted ten-thousand trees here, including native species, orchards and a butterfly wood.

“We’ve also farmed organically for over twenty years, enabling more birds and bees to thrive.

“Not only does using our farm to produce green energy fit in with our ethos, it has enormous benefits for the wider community and the environment as a whole.”

Times letters: One-party ‘fiefdoms’ and electoral reform

A letter from the Electoral Reform Society to the Times, 31 March, spells out the danger of one-party domination in local government. The solution proposed is electoral reform. In the short term we have County Council elections on May 6 and Owl believes that voters should use the opportunity to vote for a more diverse council membership. In essence the questions to ask are: which candidate are free from party whipping and can truly represent the interests of their patch (“Division” in county-speak), and are committed to following the Nolan principles?

Sir, Patrick Maguire is right to highlight the one-party fiefdoms that plague local government (Mar 29). Indeed we often see the absurdity of “scrutiny committees”, reviewing millions of pounds in contracts, being dominated by the same party in office. It is a recipe for disaster. The risks of winner-takes-all politics — of sloppy decision-making and dodgy dealings — are clear. Research for the Electoral Reform Society in 2015 found that councils dominated by single parties could be wasting as much as £2.6 billion a year through a lack of scrutiny of their procurement processes. The study looked at thousands of public sector contracts, and found that one-party dominated councils were about 50 per cent more at risk of corruption than politically competitive councils, paying far over the odds to lobbyist contractors.

Alarm bells should be ringing in Whitehall. A shift to proportional representation is vital to provide the scrutiny that voters need. Instead, the home secretary is scrapping the preferential voting system for choosing mayors, which will entrench one-party domination. She must think again.

Darren Hughes

CEO, Electoral Reform Society

More detail and link to the 2015 research from www.electoral-reform.org.uk 

The study – undertaken by Cambridge University academic Mihály Fazekas – is titled The Cost of One-Party Councils and looks at the savings in contracting between councils dominated by a single party (or with a significant number of uncontested seats), and more competitive councils.

It finds that ‘one-party councils’ could be missing out on savings of around £2.6bn when compared to their more competitive counterparts – most likely due to a lack of scrutiny. £2.6bn is a lot of potential extra cash for our struggling authorities.

The report also measures councils’ procurement process against a ‘Corruption Risk Index’ – and finds that one-party councils are around 50% more at risk of corruption than politically competitive councils. The corruption risk of competitive councils compared to those dominated by one party is similar to the difference between the average Swedish municipality and the average Estonian municipality. This doesn’t bode well for democracy or council coffers.

And it’s no small-scale study. It uses ‘big data’ to look at 132,000 public procurement contracts between 2009 and 2013 to identify ‘red flags’ for corruption, such as where only a single bid is submitted or there is a shortened length of time between advertising the bid and the submission deadline.

One-party councils come about because of the distorting effects of First Past the Post in local elections. So today, we’re renewing our call for England and Wales to adopt the Scottish system (the Single Transferable Vote) for electing local councils. In Scotland, it has been shown to completely end the phenomena of one-party councils and uncontested seats – and could result in significant public savings, by increasing levels of scrutiny and lowering councils’ risk of dodgy dealings.

These findings make sense really. When single parties have almost complete control of councils, scrutiny and accountability tend to suffer.

The £2.6bn potential wastage is a damning indictment of an electoral system that gives huge artificial majorities to parties and undermines scrutiny. This kind of waste would be unjustifiable at the best of times. But during a period of austerity it is simply astonishing.

Alarm bells should be ringing in Whitehall today. First Past the Post is clearly unfit for purpose – especially for local government – with parties able to win the vast majority of seats often on a minority of the vote (and on tiny turnouts).

A fairer system, such as the one used in Scotland for local elections, would make ‘one-party states’ a thing of the past. And by letting the sunlight in, a fairer voting system could lead to substantial savings for the taxpayer.

Read the full report

Claire quits – a sad day for East Devon

It’s been an incredible political adventure and an absolute honour to serve my community for the past 12 years but it’s time to pursue new opportunities…Claire Wright

A great loss to the movement in East Devon as Claire stands down. She has been an inspiration to us all. I will be keeping in touch – and look forward to Jess joining me on the County Council, voters willing! – Martin Shaw

Paul Nero www.radioexe.co.uk 

Claire Wright will pursue other opportunities

Claire Wright to step down

The independent politician who has given Conservative candidates a run for their money in the past three parliamentary elections is quitting her role on Devon County Council.

Claire Wright came second to Sir Hugo Swire in the 2015 and 2017 general elections, before challenging his replacement Simon Jupp in 2019. She increased her share of the vote from 24 to 40 per cent, a commendable achievement for someone without the support of a large party machine.

However, her disappointment on the morning of the 2019 election was palpable and she declined to say whether she would run again.

Now she has decided not to seek re-election to her seat on Devon County Council in the forthcoming local elections, where she represents West Hill and Aylesbeare in East Devon.

Ms Wright said: “My decision to stand aside may come as a surprise to people.  However, I have quietly been considering my position for some time and although it has been an honour and privilege to serve my community in this way, it is now time to step aside. 

“It was in recent days and after much contemplation that I reached the decision that now is the right time to pursue other career opportunities.”

She is asking voters to elect independent councillor Jess Bailey in her place.

Ms Bailey has been an East Devon District councillor since 2019 and has served on Ottery St Mary Town Council and West Hill Parish Council for seven years. A solicitor, she grew up on a farm in Mid Devon where she developed a love of wildlife and nature. 

She said: “I am very honoured to be endorsed by Claire as her potential successor. It is by no means guaranteed that I will be elected though and in the coming weeks I will be working hard to understand the issues across the Otter Valley Ward. It will of course be a different kind of election due to Covid and whilst it may not be possible to speak to people on the doorstep in the ‘normal’ way I will be doing all that I can to communicate with residents.”

Claire Wright added: “I know with absolute certainty, that my ward, the residents, the wildlife, the trees and every other thing of value, will be in supremely safe hands if Jess is elected. I have known her for years. She has proven time and time again that she is hard working, that she cares and that she fights tooth and nail for her ward.”

Trees will be in safe hands with Jess Bailey, says Claire Wright

“There is no one else I would feel more confident in, or happier to succeed me on Devon County Council. I very much hope that my supporters will step forward to help Jess in the forthcoming election campaign – as I myself will be doing. It is a huge challenge for an Independent to be elected to the County Council without the backing of a party machine. With only five weeks to go until polling day, it will now be full steam ahead for Jess and for those helping with her campaign.”