Campaigners against a controversial plan to cover 133 acres of green belt land on the Kirklees-Wakefield border with solar panels have won the support of an MP.
Conservative candidate for the new Parliamentary seat of Wakefield West and Denby Dale, Mark Eastwood, visited the site near Overton and vowed to support objectors opposing the plan, which could see an area the size of 100 football pitches disappear under fields of glass and steel.
Similar plans for nearby Low Farm at Flockton have already been approved by Kirklees Council.
Mr Eastwood, who is currently MP for Dewsbury, which includes Flockton and Denby Dale, said: “I’m only too happy to support the Save Sitlington Countryside group in opposing this development.
“We need to ensure that we have renewable energy sources but this area of open farmland is totally inappropriate.
“I’ll do all I can to support local people in protecting the green open space, wildlife and heritage that this beautiful area of countryside contains.”
On his Saturday morning visit Mr Eastwood was told that the proposal would destroy protected green belt land, in breach of national and local planning policy.
How Low Farm at Flockton could look with the proposed solar panels
The Save the Sitlington Countryside group, which invited Mr Eastwood, says the project proposed by Boom Power would ruin a green haven for the hosts of hikers, horse riders and birdwatchers who regularly use the footpaths and bridleways criss-crossing it.
Mr Eastwood, who has been fighting a similar battle to halt plans for more than 1,500 homes built on farmland and green belt land at Chidswell near Dewsbury, voiced his support for the protesters.
His comments were welcomed by the Sitlington campaign group, which recently invited along current area MP Simon Lightwood (Labour) to visit the site.
Objectors to the Boom Power plan in Wakefield are deeply concerned the company has already been granted permission by Kirklees Council to build a solar farm on 210 acres of land on the opposite side of the A642 New Road, at Low Farm, Flockton, close to the National Coal Mining Museum.
Wakefield Council has asked for an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out before making a decision on the New Hall Solar Farm plan. A third application to access the National Grid on land near to Horbury Bridge has also been approved.
The issue has been complicated this year by changes being imposed by one of the periodic reviews of the Boundary Commission for England, responsible for reviewing Parliamentary constituency boundaries in England.
Consultations on the review are closed and final recommendations will be made to Parliament by July 1.
A new Wakefield West and Denby Dale seat will come into existence at the next General Election and be made up of the Kirklees wards of Kirkburton and Denby Dale, alongside the Wakefield wards of Wakefield Rural, Wakefield South, Horbury and South Ossett and Ossett.
Under the changes, the Dewsbury constituency is set to disappear in its current form and Mr Eastwood is being backed by local representatives of his party to stand as MP for the new Wakefield West and Denby Dale seat where he has family connections and many of his core supporters live.
Last October Boom Power announced it had permission for Low Farm at Flockton and another site at Osgodby in Selby. At the time the company said renewable energy production must be accelerated to tackle the impact of climate change.
A spokesman said: “The ongoing acceptance and approval of solar projects, such as these, is part of the solution to this urgent need to transition the UK to a sustainable future.”
Mark Hogan, founder and director of Boom Power, said: “We are thrilled to be taking active steps towards the quest to challenge climate change.
“These projects will contribute by powering over 31,000 family homes and preventing the CO2 emissions of over 47,000 tonnes annually.
“This is a fantastic step for us as a team and we look forward to collaborating with the local communities and councils as we move into the construction phase.
“This is just the start of Boom Power’s dedication and ongoing commitment to shaping a greener energy landscape and being a catalyst of change for future generations.”