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Newton: Plans to create a solar farm the size of 37 football pitches are rejected by Babergh District Council

PUBLISHED: 10:48 20 February 2014 | UPDATED: 10:49 20 February 2014

View from Edwardstone church across the fields where the proposed solar panels would have been sited.

View from Edwardstone church across the fields where the proposed solar panels would have been sited.

The company behind a failed bid to build a solar farm the size of 37 football pitches in a ‘special’ Suffolk landscape has hinted it could now abandon the project.

At a tense meeting yesterday attended by dozens of protestors, Babergh’s planning committee rejected an application by solar farm development company, Sun and Soil, to install solar panels on 26 hectares of agricultural land between Newton and Edwardstone.

Council officers originally recommended the application for approval despite the concerns of people living in both villages.

But councillors voted 9/5 to reject the scheme, due to fears about the impact it could have on the landscape and the nearby listed buildings, including St Mary’s Church in Edwardstone. They were also worried about the temporary loss of agricultural land for the 25 years of the solar farm’s operational life.

Sun and Soil representative Andrew Allen said councillors who had visited the site voted in favour of the scheme. But he added that the company had not yet decided whether to appeal against the decision. He said: “At this stage, we have not made a decision about what comes next.

“We may consider downsizing the project or cancelling it altogether.”

After the meeting, Babergh councillor for Boxford and Edwardstone, Bryn Hurren – who received more than 100 letters from people opposed to the scheme – said he was delighted the committee had listened to the arguments and that “democracy and common sense had prevailed.”

He said: “We are campaigning across Suffolk to get pylons removed and wires undergrounded and this kind of scheme would hold that back. Sixty eight acres of glass, plastic and wires is not what we want in our countryside – it’s yesterday’s technology.

“There’s also the concern about the impact it could have on a finely balanced rural economy. There’s a wider area to consider and solar farms are not what we need here.”

Planning committee chairman, Peter Beer, said members felt the application did not give sufficient weight to mitigating the landscape and heritage impact of the proposals - or to the consequences of removing such high quality arable land from agricultural use.

He continued: “While Babergh remains committed to greater renewable energy generation, all developments must be appropriate to their sites.

“In this case the applicant simply failed to convince the committee that this was the case.”

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