Soham Solar One Step Closer

solar_panels17:25 Tuesday 29th October 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[C]HRIS MANN: Plans for a solar farm near Soham are one step closer after a meeting today. It happened at Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet meeting. That meeting again! Ian Bates is the Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning, and joins me now. Hello Ian.
IAN BATES: Evening Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Just tell us about this proposal please.
IAN BATES: Well it’s a proposal to bring forward an investment for the County Council on County farmland. And essentially a business plan would have to be put together, and planning would come next year, more towards the Spring of next year, when we would seek planning permission. But essentially what this is is about investment, where we would benefit and put the money back into front line services. So it’s an investment which would benefit the County Council, benefit the taxpayer, and therefore help us towards delivering services on the front line Chris.
CHRIS MANN: You say it would benefit. Don’t you mean it might benefit? Nothing is guaranteed is it?

IAN BATES: Well there’s never anything guaranteed in planning as we all know. So we’ve got to go through a lot more steps, a lot more feasibilities, a lot more business plans.
CHRIS MANN: Shouldn’t you make that clearer though, that this isn’t a guarantee? People aren’t definitely going to get this money back. It’s like any investment.
IAN BATES: Well no. I think we can be much more positive than that Chris. I think that is our intention, to make that investment, use the revenue from that benefit that we will get, and put it into front line services. That is what the project is about.
CHRIS MANN: You talked about that today, am I right, at the Cabinet meeting. But you didn’t talk about the bigger amount which we were discussing on the programme last night, the six hundred million which was proposed of course when Nick Clarke was in charge, but is still being considered under┬áMartin Curtis. You didn’t talk about that bigger amount, no?
IAN BATES: No we didn’t. Not today.
CHRIS MANN: Why not?
IAN BATES: Why not? Well I think quite simply because it’s not really a subject I think that we need to discuss. It is about jobs. It’s about the economy. It’s about getting the County moving. I think that your listeners will understand that. It is about all those issues. This county is a fast growing community, and we need that investment in the infrastructure to actually get it moving.
CHRIS MANN: OK. And this solar farm is going to happen, do you feel?
IAN BATES: Yes I think it will. Remember we’re not putting it on high grade land. We’re putting it on low agricultural land, so it’s not very productive like Fenland soil is. So we’re putting it in the right place. And hopefully this will then give us a revenue which can go back into those front line services.
CHRIS MANN: I know this is a slightly different subject that we were discussing earlier on, about the proposals to charge for off-street parking in Cambridge on a Sunday, and Huntingdon. prices are going to go up. So is it the parkers that are going to be paying for this?
IAN BATES: No. It will not be the parkers. It will not be the parkers who will be paying for this Chris. This is an investment in solar energy. remember, lots of discussions about where that will take us, nuclear power, and all those other discussions. So there really is not a link between car parking charges and solar panels.
CHRIS MANN: Just checking. (LAUGHS)
IAN BATES: (LAUGHS) No trouble checking.
CHRIS MANN: Cllr Ian Bates there, always a pleasure to talk to him. Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning on Cambridgeshire County Council.