Mallard Pass becomes the latest NSIP project to enter the pre-examination stage. Image: Andreas Gücklhorn (Unsplash).

The 350MW Mallard Pass Solar Farm has now moved into the public consultation stage via pre-examinations after the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) accepted the project's Development Consent Order (DCO).

The Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) is being developed by Canadian Solar and Windel Energy, and will sit across 880 hectares of land either side of the East Coast Main Line near Essendine, making it partly situated in South Kesteven in Lincolnshire and partly in Rutland. It is to be connected to the grid via the existing Ryhall substation.

This latest public consultation round builds on two held in 2022, as well as environmental surveys and assessments. Following on from these, the DCO application for the project was submitted to the PINS on 24 November 2022. This was officially accepted on 21 December 2022, moving the project into its next phase. 

The Mallard Pass Solar Farm team are now inviting members of the public to consult the DCO application and consider whether they would like to submit a Relevant Representation to PINS. Those interested in providing views for the consultation must register as an interested party, which will allow them to submit detailed written representations and attend and participate in the examination hearings.

“We are delighted to announce that our application for Mallard Pass has been accepted for examination and low forward to the pre-examination and examination periods,” said Sarah Price, planning lead for the Mallard Pass Solar Farm.

“It is our ambition to deliver a project that provides reliable, low-cost and sustainable energy to our national grid while responding sensitively to the local environment, providing opportunities for surrounding communities and offering enhancements to wildlife and biodiversity.

“We are grateful to everyone who has shared their views with us so far, helping shape our application for Mallard Pass Solar Farm. We encourage anyone with an interest in Mallard Pass to read the DCO document and consider whether they would like to provide further comments about it, in the form of a relevant representation to PINS and to participate in the upcoming examination.”

The Mallard Pass project has been met by some opposition from the local community, and in particular from the MP for Rutland and Melton Alicia Kearns. She spoke out against the solar farm in a debate in the House of Commons on UK-Taiwan Friendship and Co-operation on 10 February 2022, stating that the site is “being developed by a de facto Chinese company with supply chains reaching into Xinjiang”.

NSIP projects such as Mallard Pass are becoming more prominent in the UK as the nation transitions away from fossil fuels and grows its renewable generation sector. Announced projects so far include: BayWa r.e.’ 160MW Oaklands Farm Solar Park, Ecotricity’s Heckington Fen Solar Park, Evolution Power’s 165MW solar and storage project in Kent, Low Carbon’s 500MW Gate Burton solar and storage park in Lincolnshire, and Island Green Power’s 600MW solar project and Longfield Solar Energy Farm in Essex.

There are two NSIP solar projects to have gained a DCO so far, INRG Solar’s 150MWp Little Crow Solar Farm and the 350MW Cleve Hill Solar Farm, which was approved in May 2020 becoming the first solar project to make it through thr process. Cleve Hill has since been acquired by Quinbrook and renamed Project Fortress.

Alongside these, one of the largest solar NSIP projects called Botley West, with a generation capacity of 840MW, launched its first public consultation in early November 2022. Project developer’s PVDP said it will submit a DCO application to PINS by the end of 2023.