Appeal lodged over refusal of solar farm plan

Christine Garner is unhappy about plans to build a solar farm on prime agricultural land. ENGANL00520130309144701

Christine Garner is unhappy about plans to build a solar farm on prime agricultural land. ENGANL00520130309144701

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An appeal has been lodged after Braintree District Council refused a proposed solar farm on land in Belchamp St Paul.

Energy investment firm Sovereign Partners submitted a planning application to build a 25,000 panel farm on fields at Big Deere Lodge in the village.

The plans were refused by the district council, which cited the loss of prime agricultural land – a point which did not follow current Government guidelines.

Sovereign Partners, which claims the site would provide power for more than 1,700 homes, has appealed the decision, and a planning inspector will now rule on the plans.

Written representations will now be sought from both Sovereign Partners and the district council, which will have to explain why it formed the view that the proposals would conflict with national guidelines.

Before the initial application, the developer claimed to have consulted extensively with residents, however, Braintree District Council received 79 letters opposing the plans and none in favour.

The authority actually took the step of refusing the plans before they were even brought before councillors.

At the time, Tessa Lambert, development manager at the council, said this was because the site was deemed as being the “best and most versatile agricultural land”.

This was based on Government guidelines to restrict panels being placed on prime agricultural areas.

Terry McGuire, chairman of Belchamp St Paul and Belchamp Otten Parish Council, said a joint committee of local parish councils that could be affected by the site had been set up.

“The committee is aware of the appeal,” he said. “We are currently looking at it and will be making representations in due course.”

A petition by residents of Belchamp St Paul, Belchamp Otten, Foxearth, Liston and Pentlow, who wereworried about a number of proposed solar farms on land around their parishes, was sent to the House of Commons.

Residents will have the chance to have their say on the proposals by going to Comments must be made by July, 29.

Sovereign Partners refused to comment on the appeal.

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