max temp: 15°C

min temp: 12°C

ESTD 1874 Search

Suffolk/Essex: Solar bid on prime farmland rejected

08:37 01 May 2014


Communities on the Suffolk and Essex border are celebrating after a controversial proposal to build a solar farm on 42 acres of prime agricultural land was refused by the district authority.

Parish councils in the villages of Foxearth, Liston, Pentlow, Belchamp St Paul and Belchamp Otten, just over the border from Sudbury, banded together to form a joint committee to campaign against solar farm applications from at least three different developers.

Their bid to stop up to 300 acres of Grade II arable land in the area from being swamped by solar panels attracted national attention, and local MP Brooks Newmark raised the issue in Parliament.

One of the biggest schemes, submitted to Braintree District Council by Sovereign Energy, was for a 42-acre solar farm at Big Deere Lodge Field between Pentlow and Belchamp St Paul. The scheme, intended to connect to the national grid via the Belchamp St Paul substation, was for around 25,000 solar panels capable of generating sufficient electricity for an estimated 2,275 homes.

Last October, the parish councils held a public meeting in Foxearth attended by more than 80 concerned parishioners ahead of a scheduled planning committee meeting to decide the fate of the proposal. But they have now been informed the application has been refused without going before the committee.

Officers were able to make the decision under delegated powers because the council received 79 letters against the scheme but none in support.

In the council’s refusal notice, officers said the proposed development involved the use of a greenfield site which is predominantly “Grade II and Grade IIIa” and therefore categorised as being “best and most versatile agricultural land.”

Last night district councillor Julian Finch – who has fought a long battle against the solar farms alongside the campaigners – said he was pleased they had won a reprieve, which he believes is due to new Government guidance relating to solar farms and agricultural land.

He said: “The Government has become a lot stricter on this matter, and that is why Braintree planning officers felt they had to refuse the application.

“Solar is an amazing idea if it’s in the right place but the new guidance could be the death knell for large scale solar farms on the best and most versatile agricultural land.”

Essex County Council leader David Finch, from Borley near Sudbury, said turning down the application was the right thing to do, but there was still an opportunity for the applicants to appeal.

“I am pleased with this first step but we need to make sure it is not going ahead in the future,” he said.

Sovereign Energy could appeal against the decision. Last night, no-one from the company was available to comment.

1 comment

  • I'm so glad the solar bid has been turned down. I re-visited Belchamp St Paul once again in March this year , after a 46 year gap, and the place was still as lovely as in 1968 when I was a student at "Belchamp St Pauls Tutorial Establishment" -run by Cannon Powell in what is now The Mulberry Tree(?). There are a few changes to the village, but the area is still as lovely as ever and the thought of a solar farm is beyond comprehension.

    Report this comment


    Friday, May 9, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Community campaigners have saved the Duke of Marlborough Pub in Somersham from closure.

Campaigners are today making a toast to community spirit and tasting a hard-earned sip of success as their dream of saving a village pub becomes a reality.

The tiny kittens are now being cared for by a local vet

RSPCA inspectors are investigating after three baby kittens were found dumped in a bin bag in Essex earlier this month.

Halloween is nearly upon us

Fright night fun comes to Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft this weekend as we celebrate Halloween - with the actual scare-fest taking place on Monday, October 31.

Flu vaccination feature at Barrack Lane Surgery. Dr Juno Jesuthasan and patient Sarah Turner.

Get yourself protected – that’s the message from Suffolk health professionals to vulnerable people who are eligible for free flu jabs.

Children dress up for the Halloween monster ball at Clacton's Princes Theatre

More than 300 spooky ghosts, ghouls, witches and zombies headed to Clacton’s Princes Theatre this week for a Halloween-themed monster’s ball.

Young ones at play in the sun by iwitness Brian Smith

Through our iwitness24 site readers are able to share their photos of Suffolk’s top beauty spots, nature images that have been taken great patience to shoot and funny photos that bring a smile to your face.

Halloween. Picture: Angela Sharpe

Parents of trick or treaters are being reminded of some simple tips to help ensure their children have a safe Halloween by the East of England Ambulance Service.

Most read

Great Days Out


Click here to view
the Great Days Out


Most commented


Show Job Lists


Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

MyDate24 MyPhotos24