A total of 118,900 solar panels have been proposed for an area of countryside in west Suffolk.

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Six closely-related parcels of land, covering 66 hectacres at West Farm, Barnham, near Bury St Edmunds, could be used to generate 29 megawatts of power.

Documents submitted to St Edmundsbury Borough Council on the behalf of Elveden Farms Ltd state that the scheme – potentially one of the biggest in the county – will include land within the Breckland Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Breckland Special Protection Area (SPA), designated for its population of rare stone curlew.

The Elveden Estate insists the proposal has been designed to reduce negative impacts on these areas while protecting and improving “the existing biodiversity and ecology value of the site.”

Documents state the proposal would result in the creation of 66ha of grassland within the site under the solar panels, which would create new wildlife corridors and habitats.

Jim Rudderham, forestry and conservation manager for Elveden Estate and Farms, said: “The solar array will produce 29mw of sustainable electricity for the local area.

“The location has been specially chosen as it is invisible from main roads and is close to the point of connection to the electricity grid.

“The array is on land which has a very low agricultural yield and the plan intends to improve biodiversity, with sheep grazing beneath the panels to protect and improve populations of rare Breckland plants.

“The surrounding area supports one to two pairs of stone curlew and the array is designed to encourage the natural vegetation between the panels which will provide protected feeding areas for these rare birds.”

The Elveden Estate has included the improvement of 225ha of habitat for the stone curlew and other 
breckland species in the overall plan – including the creation of 4ha of habitat between Foxhole Heath SSSI and Eriswell Low Warren SSSI.

The application, due to be determined in March, is the third in the region recently and follows plans for a 37ha site in Ingham and 198 panel farm in Fornham.

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