Solar farms are power to council's elbow but don't forget the Gulls - and the archers!

Torbay Weekly

The current partnership running Torbay Council have always made clear their support for sport.

Grants have been found for the first time in virtually a generation to help athletes achieve their own personal ambitions and for clubs to improve their facilities.

There is a much better joined-up thinking and partnership working between the council, councillors, Sport Torbay, clubs and governing bodies.

A playing pitch strategy is currently under way to look at facilities and a special mapping exercise is being carried out to see how sport and physical activity can help people in some of the Bay's most challenging and deprived areas.

It is being recognised that sport, health and well-being, especially mental health, are all inter-linked.  Wouldn't a sport and well-being hub be fabulous and where do Torquay United sit in all this?

The club's owner and management have always made clear their intention to move away from Painmoor and into a new stadium. They are also on the lookout for a  new training base closer to home rather than having to journey to outside Newton Abbot as they do at the moment.

But where is the million dollar question.

United did have their eyes on a site at the Willows at Barton but that is destined to be a solar farm. The £3.1m farm will  supply power to Torbay Hospital and help the council achieve its carbon neutral priorities. The park had been United owners Gaming International’s first choice as a location for a new stadium.

Many years ago there were plans for a sports hub over at Brokenbury at Churston. Brixham Archers, Paignton Rifle Club and then Brixham Villa Football Club were looking to make it their home in a joint venture but it all fell by the wayside for a  variety of reasons.

I gather the land is still earmarked for sports use but, guess what it is now being lined up for?. A solar farm!

The council will have to wait a little while longer to see the farm plans progress afer planning committee councillors deferred a decision about the proposed 17-acre new facility.

They raised concerns that the plans do not include consultation with fire services and don’t take into account the worries of local residents.

The committee voted to defer the £2.75 million facility until Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue is asked about potential implications for fire safety.

The committee also wants more active engagement with the community about the solar farm and for planners to look at whether the solar panels could be located in an adjacent field to reduce the visual impact for nearby residents.

The proposals had been submitted by the Torbay Development Agency, the council’s economic development company, to address the climate crisis and help the local authority reach its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

It is thought the farm could save around 619 tonnes of CO2 per year, and a total of almost 18,000 tonnes in its 25-year lifecycle.

In its current incarnation, it could produce 2.7 megawatts of clean energy – enough to power around 800 homes. South West Water would use the majority of the power for a nearby water treatment plant, with surplus energy  supplied to the national grid.

Council leader Steve Darling said the majority of the concerns raised by councillors were not issues for the planning committee.

He argued that more renewable energy was needed to diversify the Bay’s energy supply and prevent residents being “held to ransom” by unpredictable energy hikes.

Torbay does not have much in the way of renewable energy infrastructure, with most of its green energy coming from roof-mounted solar panels which only provide for 1.6 per cent of Torbay’s electricity needs.

It won't be long  before the farm plans return. Leader Darling told me: "it is now up to officers to see what part of the plans concern councillors and come back to them."

He added: "If we are serious about climate change we have to move heaven and earth to seize whatever opportunity we have."

The Brixham Archers are still looking for a permanent home after all these years. Can anybody out there help?

As for Torquay United, I gather talks are still being held and deputy leader Darren Cowell revealed: "We are working with the club to identify new facilities to meet their ambitions because Torquay United are important to Torbay. Their efforts working in the community are welcome."

Floodlights powered by solar energy. Let me leave you with the thought.