Villages show united front in solar farm fight

Latest environment news from the Suffolk Free Press,, @sfpsudbury on Twitter
Latest environment news from the Suffolk Free Press,, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

Solar farm plans for rural Essex will be met with fierce opposition after three parish councils joined forces to voice residents’ objections.

Two councillors from each of Foxearth and Liston, Belchamp St Paul and Belchamp Otten and Pentlow parish councils have formed a joint committee to look at proposals for three solar farms in the area.

Sovereign Partners has submitted plans for a 38-acre solar energy site at Big Deere Lodge in Belchamp St Paul, while Push Energy is set to apply for permission to build 62,000 panels on 66 acres of land south of Bunting’s Farm in Pentlow.

TGC Renewables has also created an outline proposal for 49 acres at Sheering Place in Belchamp St Paul.

Around 50 residents attended a Foxearth Parish Council meeting on Thursday to discuss their concerns with MP Brooks Newmark, county councillor Julian Swift and parish councillors.

Clive Waite, parish council chairman, read a report by councillors into the solar farms’ impacts.

“Any scheme we, as a community, might be asked to consider should be proportionate in size, be sensitively located and should not result in the loss of high-quality food producing land for the next quarter of a century,” he said.

Mr Waite said a project by Sovereign Energy in Wales using sheep to graze the land under solar panels had been unsuccessful.

Belchamp St Paul parish councillor John Moxon called for action to be taken quickly ahead of a meeting on November 7 which will decide the application for Big Deere Lodge, urging residents to contact district councillors.

Mr Newmark said he had written to the secretary of state and Braintree District Council and was now starting a petition for residents to sign.

“It would be great if we can get more than 500 supporters – that’s a good number to present to Parliament,” he said.

“These solar panels should be put on brown field sites, not where they have a massive visual impact on communities.”

John Swann warned that increasing green energy provision must be a priority and solar farms appeared to be part of that strategy.

Julia Hardwick, whose house neighbours the site proposed by TGC Renewables, said she had an application for a garage turned down 25 years ago as it would be a “detrimental feature” and questioned how solar farms of the size proposed would not be.

“This area is beautiful and historic,” she said. “To tear up this area would be a tragedy.”

For information on the petition, call Mike Letch at Foxearth and Liston Parish Council on 01376 348907.