Solar plans for Littlehey Prison but watch out for the great crested newts!

84-year-old prisoner dies at Littlehey

84-year-old prisoner dies at Littlehey - Credit: Archant

A solar farm is being planned for Littlehey Prison - with the two-acre site being able to provide a substantial amount of the jail’s future power needs.

The move is part of Ministry of Justice (MoJ) plans to boost energy eficiency at its prison sites and it also says the solar panels will help to kick-start the economy which has been damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the ministry could find itself facing the might of the law if great crested newts are put at risk during construction, planning documents warn.

The ministry has been in discussion with Huntingdonshire District Council about the scheme and has launched a planning application as part of a screening process.

It said in its application: “The proposed development consists of a ground-mounted PV generation system on operational land to the west of the main HMP Littlehey Prison facility.

“The site extends to 0.79 hectares and is bordered to the north by The Dre and the east by Crow Spinney Lane.”

It said: “The installation will be mounted on the ground in a portrait configuration comprising 70 sets of 20 panels that will generate 532kWp in total.

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“The power from the PV installation will be solely used to power the operational prison facility and will generate 75 per cent of the facility’s minimum daytime load.”

The application said that the solar farm, of just under two acres in size, would not have a cumulative impact on the appearance of the area, despite the construction of a 57 acre solar farm at nearby Grafham Water, since this would be offset by the prison buildings and a water treatment works.

It said: “The proposed solar PV panels respond to the need to kick-start economic growth impacted by Covid-19 by creating jobs through investment.

“The MoJ has been awarded funding to invest in low carbon technologies on its estate to help enable a post Covid-19 recovery.”

It added: “The development will also assist the MoJ - the second largest central government estate - to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions in line with national policy to reduce carbon and transition to low carbon energy sources.”

A report submitted with the application said protected great crested newts had been recorded in the area, but their presence was unlikely to affect construction.

“No trenches or excavations should be left open overnight,” it said. “If a great crested newt should fall into an open excavation and require removal this would be considered an offence under current legislation. Excavations should therefor be backfilled overnight or concrete poured immediately after digging.”