Delight as plans for solar farm are quashed

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Latest community news from the Suffolk Free Press, suffolkfreepress.co.uk, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

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Villagers expressed their delight this week that an appeal to see a solar farm built on 38 acres of farm land in Belchamp St Paul has been dismissed.

Sovereign Energy had appealed against Braintree District Council’s decision in June 2014 to reject planning permission for the solar farm at Big Deere Lodge Field, Belchamp St Paul.

At that time, the council said it did not accept the large-scale solar farm was necessary, and Government guidance was for new solar capacity to be focused on brownfield sites and roof space on buildings.

Keith Warner, whose house at Pannells Ash Farm East overlooks the Big Deere Lodge Field, said the village was relieved and pleased by the decision of the Planning Inspectorate to refuse the appeal.

He had previously described the proposal as horrifying which was a “desecration” to the countryside.

He said: “This issue has been going on for two years, so we are happy that common sense prevailed in the end.

“Everyone is pretty pleased about the decision. It’s good to have a positive outcome, and one good thing that has come out of it is that we know a lot more people now. Our villages and communities have got closer as we have worked together.”

Mr Warner said another energy company called Plutus Energy had recently met with villagers at Belchamp St Paul village hall to discuss its plans for two acres of land next to Big Deere Lodge Farm.

Added Mr Warner: “There is now looming another application to put oil-fired generators on two acres of land nearby to provide spare capacity for the Belchamp St Paul sub-station. We are told we will not be affected by background noise and it won’t pollute.”

He said the company was consulting with the community, but had not yet submitted a planning application.

Commenting on the refusal of the solar farm appeal, councillor Lady Patricia Newton, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing at Braintree District Council said: “We are pleased that the Planning Inspector has backed the Council’s view that this is not the right location for a solar farm of this size.

“The creation of solar farms is a contentious one, and whilst we recognise the benefits, this has to be weighed against the impact a development of this type causes.

“Guidance put forward by Government makes it clear that the focus should be on previously developed and non-agricultural land. Agricultural land should only be used where it is shown to be necessary, and poorer quality land has been used in preference to higher quality land.

“The Planning Inspector has case backed the council’s findings that the 17 hectare site is predominantly made up of good quality land, and so is not suitable to house this type of large scale solar farm.”