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Essex: Tendring is ‘Wild West’ for solar farm developers

Solar farms are becoming common sights across the Suffolk countryside.

Solar farms are becoming common sights across the Suffolk countryside.

Archant

Clear policy on solar farms is needed quickly to end Tendring being the “Wild West” for developers, according to a councillor.

Matthew Patten, district councillor for Bradfield, Wrabness and Wix who has raised concerns about four applications within a mile-and-a-half of each other in his ward, and spoke at rural projects panel meeting about solar farms.

The panel, a working party of district and parish councillors and officers, has suggested that Tendring District Council (TDC) should have a policy against supporting multiple applications in a particular area.

It has also said council policy should clearly prefer development on brown field sites unless energy companies can demonstrate there are no suitable alternatives, much like other major planning applications.

Panel members also suggested that TDC and Essex County Council should support applications for solar farms on its land and other suitable publicly-owned sites.

The panel’s comments will be debated by TDC’s corporate management committee at a meeting next week. The committee will then be asked to send their thoughts onto the local plan committee, which is working on proposals for where housing, development and potentially solar farms might be best placed in the medium-term, and also to senior colleagues at cabinet.

There are currently eight planning applications for solar farm sites across Tendring, including four around Wix and one at Burnt Heath near Ardleigh. They are often controversial with nearby residents who state they are a blot on the landscape.

Speaking to the EADT Mr Patten said: “At the moment it is like the Wild West with everything happening so quickly.

“Tendring has a perfect storm between a land grab by these newly formed solar farm companies in an understandable desire for renewable energy, and the council going between its local plans, and consequently its policies to deal with these things are a bit like an open goal.

“Stopping clustering, although not definitely in government policy, is implied and is something we need to look at.

“It is one thing saying to applicants you should use a brown field site, but Tendring and Essex councils own a huge number of those sites and at a time when both are pleading poverty we should be putting forward a portfolio and saying to developers ‘Don’t put it on that farm over there, put it on our land here’.

“The applicants talk about these being temporary things with everything being taken down again in 25 years time. But that’s the rest of my lifetime, and we have to think really carefully about that.

“I see no issue in any of these proposals. The challenge is getting some policy in quickly.

“Solar farms are part of the future, it is just about getting them in the right place.”

The corporate management committee meets next Monday, June 16, at the TDC offices in Weeley from 7.30pm.

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