Huge solar farm proposals labelled 'monstrous' by councillors

solar panel on building roof

West Suffolk communities are worried about the impact of the proposed solar farm. Stock image - Credit: New Anglia Growth Hub

Plans to build Britain's biggest solar farm on the Suffolk/Cambridgeshire border have been labelled “monstrous” and “inadequate”.

Sunnica has lodged proposals for 981 hectares of agricultural land to be used for 40 years to generate power exceeding 50 megawatts.

But West Suffolk Council’s cabinet was unhappy over a number of issues as it agreed its response to the consultation.

John Griffiths, Conservative leader of West Suffolk Council and ward member for Ixworth.

John Griffiths, Conservative leader of West Suffolk Council and ward member for Ixworth - Credit: West Suffolk Council

Council leader John Griffiths said it was “very clear this is inadequate” while cabinet member for resources and property Sarah Broughton said it was “a monstrous size” which for communities facing the biggest impact of the proposals was “ruining their lives”.

Cabinet member for planning, David Roach said the authority is supportive of renewable energy schemes but highlighted concerns over "key environmental impacts" and the applicant's assessments of these and the adequacy of the mitigation proposed to address adverse effects.

He said that the impact on the roads was not addressed, and for cyclists and pedestrians the impacts were “underplayed”.

Mr Roach said: “Overall the scheme has the potential to significantly affect our communities which have been shaped by a history of agriculture, and in relation to Newmarket the presence of the horseracing industry.”

David Roach, cabinet member for planning and member for Haverhill West at West Suffolk Council.

David Roach, Conservative cabinet member for planning and ward member for Haverhill West at West Suffolk Council - Credit: West Suffolk Council

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The Planning Inspectorate will hold an examination of the project with the final decision to be made by the business and energy secretary.

West Suffolk councillors representing wards of some of the communities likely to be most affected spoke out at the cabinet meeting.

Lance Stanbury from The Rows ward said it was a “speculative investment opportunity” while Manor ward councillor Brian Harvey said: “The sheer size of this proposal will effectively change this rural community forever."

Newmarket East councillor Rachel Hood said it was “a battery storage facility masquerading as a solar farm” while Mildenhall Kingsway and Market member Ian Shipp said he believed Sunnica had “taken little or no regard to the concerns of the local community”.

In its application, Sunnica said the plans “represent an important opportunity to help meet the urgent national need for new, renewable, means of energy generation”.

It said it was a “good design and would deliver sustainable development that is adapted to future climate change,” adding: “Visual, ecological and archaeological mitigation is proposed which includes proposed grassland planting and new woodland; retention of existing woodland, wetlands and other vegetation; provision of replacement habitat; and offsetting areas, where there will be no development.”