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Hacheston/Parham: Solar bids set for green light

06:00 18 January 2013

Solar farm

Solar farm

PLANS for two solar farms, just a few miles apart in the Suffolk countryside, look set to be given the go-ahead.

Planning officer have recommended that a Suffolk Coastal development committee approves an application for a 150-acre solar farm at Hacheston, near Framlingham, and a development half its size at nearby Parham Airfield.

The larger site, proposed by green energy firm developers Hive Energy, could generate between 25 and 35 megawatts (MW) of electricity, but came up against fierce opposition from three parish councils on several grounds including size, loss of arable land and visual impact on the landscape and setting of listed building Abbey Farm.

Despite the plan also attracting 58 letters of objection, and the disapproval of Suffolk MP Dan Poulter, planners felt that the benefit of renewable energy would outweigh the visual and environmental impact of the proposal.

A recommendation, due to go before councillors on Wednesday, acknowledges a “short term landscape impact” but argues that it will diminish with the growth of proposed landscaping, including a wildflower meadow.

The report continues: “Bearing in mind the low height of the solar panels, the relatively flat landscape, the existing woodland to the west of the site, the proposed buffer zones around the site and the proposed mitigation measures including screen planting, it is not considered that the impact of the proposal on the landscape or Abbey Farm will be so significant as to outweigh the benefit of renewable energy that will be provided.”

Meanwhile, a less contentious proposal is also set to be recommended for approval in Parham, where developers AGRenewables hope to build a 15MW site on farmland owned by Argus Hardy south of Great Glemham - part of the former Parham Airfield.

Again, planners felt that landscape impact would likely be the most critical issue in considering the application, but said that the low-level nature of the development, the existing landscape and topography, and the potential for mitigation would not significantly outweigh the benefit.

The proposal received six letters of objection and four in support.

Decisions on both sites are due to be made on Wednesday.

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