Farmer claims £14million solar farm would ruin landscape

LANDSCAPE VIEW: Christine Garner claims plans for a solar panel farm will ruin the landscape around her farm.
LANDSCAPE VIEW: Christine Garner claims plans for a solar panel farm will ruin the landscape around her farm.

A Pentlow farmer has complained that a development of solar panels proposed for a neighbouring farm would ruin the landscape and waste good growing land.

Push Energy is to apply for permission to build 62,000 panels on 66 acres of land south of Bunting’s Farm, owned by Peter Brand, at a cost of £14million

Christine Garner, who owns the neighbouring 300-acre Bradfield’s Farm, is concerned about the impact of the solar panels, which would provide enough electricity for 3,658 houses.

“It is on good, grade two agricultural land – I don’t think it should be put on there,” she said.

“The landscape is very beautiful and with this you are starting to turn it into an industrial site. There is a place for this sort of thing and it is not on grade two agricultural land.”

A formal application has yet to be submitted but a screening opinion from Braintree District Council ruled that the project would not require an environmental impact assessment.

Council officials said this was because it “would not constitute major development of more than local importance” and its effect “will not reach over a substantially large or highly populated area”.

A similar application for a 38-acre solar energy site in Belchamp St Paul has also been submitted.

Located at Big Deer Lodge, the development would provide enough energy for 1,770 homes and has been submitted by Sovereign Partners, an energy investment firm based in London. The application is expected to be determined by November 5.

Mrs Garner, who said Mr Brand could earn up to £1,000 per acre per year for the panels, said: “They seem to be popping up everywhere in large quantities.

“We do need solar panels to make progress with green energy but on low-grade growing land and wasteland.”

Mr Brand, whose family has owned the land for more than 80 years, said: “It has taken eight months to get this far.”

“The land is good quality and we have been growing wheat and crops on there for years. The money would be guaranteed income.”

Mr Brand, who is chairman of Pentlow Parish Council but said he is not involved in discussions on the project, added: “There would be a lot of additional screening.

“We are also going to farm the land underneath the panels as the whole field will be grazed by sheep for five or six months of the year, so there will still be an agricultural use.”

He added that parish councillors had met with Push Energy and the company had met with villagers to discuss the scheme.

“A formal application could be a couple of weeks away,” said Mr Brand. “We are trying to get everything right.”

The proposals for the solar panel farms in Belchamp St Paul and Pentlow are due to be discussed at a Pentlow Parish Council meeting to be held tonight at Pentlow Village Hall from 7.30pm.