Large solar farm rejected again

View, just below the skyline, of the site of the proposed solar farm, photographed from the churchyard. ANL-160614-183350001
View, just below the skyline, of the site of the proposed solar farm, photographed from the churchyard. ANL-160614-183350001
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A proposed Solar Farm near Boxford, Newton and Edwardstone has again been rejected after the original decision was blocked by the high court in October.

The decision had to be re-determined after planning inspector John Braithwaite failed to properly address the claim by solar farm company Sun and Soil that there was no other suitable lower grade land in the district for a solar farm to be built.

Despite this, In her report published on June 8, planning inspector Ava Wood agreed with the decision made by Mr Braithwaite on March 25, last year.

District councillor Bryn Hurren said many people in the area were relieved that the second appeal had been dismissed.

He said: “I know it has come as a great relief to all those who put a lot of hard work to campaign against this application.

“Now the second appeal has been dismissed, I believe this will be an end to the matter.”

The 26 hectares of arable land comprising the appeal site form part of 242 hectares of agricultural land holding at Roger’s Farm, which extends in a single block of land to the north of the A134 and the A1071.

The proposed installation would have been be capable of generating approximately 15 megawatts peak of electricity, with an annual electricity generation sufficient to provide the power needs of 4,064 average UK households or 11 per cent of all households in the district, saving approximately 7,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

However Mrs Wood’s report questioned the building of the solar farm on some of the ‘best and most versatile (BMV) land.

“I am not satisfied that the appellant has unequivocally discounted the possibility of using land of lesser grade three quality within range of available grid connections,” said Mrs Wood.

She added the loss of BMV land would be contrary to core planning policies.

In her report she said the impact on landscape character would be minimal, but said: “The proposal would cause substantial harm to the appearance of the landscape which would be apparent and damaging when viewed from the north and north east.

“For the reasons explained, the proposal would not respect the visual amenities of the area nor harmonise with its surroundings.”

Objectors to the plans had cited potential harm to the church in Edwardstone and Roger’s Farmhouse.

On this impact Mrs Wood said: “The less than substantial harm that would be caused to the significance of the Church of St Mary the Virgin Roger’s Farmhouse is a matter to which I attach considerable importance and weight.

“I would go as far as to accept that the low level of harm caused to the Roger’s Farmhouse would be outweighed by the sum of the public benefits described.

“However, given the importance of the church as a Grade I listed building, the public benefits of energy generation and biodiversity enhancements are not sufficient to overcome the scale of harm that would be caused to its significance, by the visually intrusive nature of the proposal.

She did praise the proposals environmental benefits, saying: “The project would contribute to the Government’s long-standing commitment to renewable energy generation.

“The power output predicted, alongside savings in carbon dioxide emissions, would assist in the drive towards tackling climate change and reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The project’s contribution towards a low carbon future is a public benefit carrying significant weight.”

But in her conclusion she said: “The scale of the combined environmental harm caused would place this development in conflict with the development plan and render it not sustainable when considered against the policies of the national planning policy framework.”