City council leader Marco Cereste says plans to create a huge renewable energy park across three farmland sites near Peterborough may not go ahead as envisaged.
His comments come shortly after Peterborough City Council announced its plans to place hundreds of solar panels on farmland at Morris Fen and Newborough would be put on hold while further consultations are carried out.
But the council has vowed to push on with similar plans for a site at America Farm.
Cllr Cereste said: “Everybody has been telling me that I need to look at the scheme and talk to the farmers and others and see if other alternatives are available that are more acceptable to them.
“Those talks will take place to see if we can find a way forward and find a solution that suits people better.
He added: “Parts of the project – Morris Fen and Newborough – may not happen as we had outlined.
“But a part – America Farm – is likely to go-ahead.
“I will be looking to get the consultations carried out as soon as possible.”
The multi-million pound plans to install wind turbines and solar panels on 900 acres of farmland at America Farm, Morris Fen and Newborough were unveiled by council leaders two years ago.
Then, the vision was to create an energy self-sufficient Peterborough creating and delivering all the power needed by homes and businesses in 20 years.
It was claimed the renewable energy parks would generate between 40 megawatts and 106 megawatts with installation costs varying from £198 million to £288.9 million.
Links to the national grid would be the Peterborough East substation for America Farm and Morris Fen and Crowland substation for Newborough Farm.
They were expected to generate a long-term net income to the council over 20 years of between £90 million and £137 million.
The project has already cost the local authority £2.2 million in planning, legal and technical work.
But standing in their way have been some 22 farmers, who leased their land from the council and had built their livelihoods on the same site for generations, and angry residents of the surrounding villages.
Protester Mike Greene said: “This would be a cause for celebration in most cities and towns where you can assume there is a logical council.
“We are in this for the long haul and we must battle on to ensure there is no basis for the council to progress with these plans.
“These plans have never had any hope of success
“But this may be born of desperation and an attempt to split the plan up so it does not get called by the government.”
Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson, who has vigorously opposed the plans, said: “I am very pleased that the council has extended the period for consultation for two thirds of the energy park plans.
“I think this is a fig leaf and the beginning of the end for this grandiose vanity project.
“That in itself is testament to people power and the resilience of the Newborough Landscape Protection Group.”
Members of the council’s cabinet committee will discuss the recommendations to put the two schemes on hold when they meet on February 24.
A council spokeswoman said: “With regard to Morris Fen and Newborough, the officers’ report recommends both be put on hold for the time being.
“This is to allow time for further consultation with tenant farmers and residents affected by the two schemes. A report will be brought back in March.”
Cllr David Seaton, the council’s cabinet member for resources, said: “The renewable energy project is vital for Peterborough.
“In the coming years, we face a £19 million shortfall in our budgets.
“The income from the three schemes will help us protect vital council services.
“But, we acknowledge that not everyone is convinced by the proposals. Having further meetings with farmers and residents is the right thing to do. We want proposals that are acceptable to as many people as possible.
“In the meantime, I hope the America Farm scheme can proceed to the next stage where we seek formal planning permission.”
The proposed ground mounted solar panels at America Farm would generate up to 7.2 megawatts of electricity every year – enough to power approximately 7,000 homes.
Council figures show the America Farm scheme alone would make a profit of between £5.2 and £5.9 million over 25 years.
A council spokeswoman said: “The tenancy of the farm has been resolved, a study found soil quality to be a lower grade than previously categorised and there has been little local opposition.”
“So far, there have only been a handful of comments relating to the three schemes. The council has responded to each one.”
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