Delight for protestors as village solar farm proposal is defeated

MISSION COMPLETE: Residents in Edwardstone and Newton Green had campaigned against the plans for a 65-acre solar farm.
MISSION COMPLETE: Residents in Edwardstone and Newton Green had campaigned against the plans for a 65-acre solar farm.

An application to create a 65-acre solar panel farm in the Newton countryside has been rejected, due to a raft of objections.

The plans for a site at Rogers Farm had been put forward by Sun and Soil Ltd, a firm which develops solar farms, on behalf of land owners Steven and John Taylor.

However the proposals, which would have seen panels in place on the land for 25 years, faced stiff opposition from many nearby residents.

Melanie Childs, from Edwardstone Parish Council, told members of a development committee yesterday that the solar farm would ruin the setting of the village’s Grade I listed St Mary’s Church and the surrounding landscape.

“The biggest concern is the visual impact on Edwardstone Church and the countryside,” she said.

“The church is in a unique rural setting and has changed little since it was built in the 14th century.”

Mrs Childs said that due to the location of the panels they would be seen from numerous points in Edwardstone and the proposed tree screening of poplars would make no difference.

Rebecca Wade, from Butler’s Farm, the closest neighbour to Rogers Farm, also spoke out against the plans on behalf of more than 30 residents gathered at Babergh District Council’s offices.

She claimed residents had not been thoroughly consulted and a decision was being rushed through.

“This will affect the Box Valley landscape and unique heritage assets,” she said.

The solar farm, which would have taken up an area the size of 37 football pitches, could have provided enough electricity for more than 3,300 homes.

Andrew Allen, from Sun and Soil, said the scheme – backed by Newton Parish Council – would support a local farmer, wildlife and contribute to the UK’s renewable energy goals.

“Careful site selection is important and Rogers Farm was identified as the most appropriate following a thorough search across Suffolk,” he said.

“It is not in a protected area and is isolated. It is visible from only three public locations.”

Mr Allen said the site would still be used for grazing sheep and bee keeping, and a wildflower meadow would also be created.

But Bryn Hurren, district councillor for the affected area, said he was unhappy about the loss of grade 3A agricultural land – judged as some of the best and most versatile – which had produced three-and-a-half tonnes of wheat last year.

“The application turns 65-acres into an industrial site, with fences, cameras and eight buildings the size of a garage,” said Mr Hurren.

“Do we want to take our best agricultural land out of production for 25 years in favour of electricity. It would be like a wort on someone’s face.”

Mention was also made of the impact the project would have on the area’s tourism industry, with visitors unlikely to be drawn to the countryside by the prospect of seeing solar panels two metres off the ground.

After more than two-and-a-half hours and a proposal in favour of the plans being defeated, members voted nine to five to refuse the solar farm.