Hacheston: MP weighs in on solar farm plan

A SUFFOLK MP has entered a debate between green energy developers and villagers living near the proposed site for one of Europe’s biggest solar farms.

Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, told residents of Hacheston, near Framlingham, that he would appeal to the secretary of state if district planners green-lit a bid for 150 acres of farmland to be used for a 35mw capacity “solar park”.

With an application due for submission by Hampshire-based developers Hive Energy following consultation, dozens turned out to express their objection at a public meeting also attended by Dr Poulter, district councillor Graham Peck and a representative of Suffolk peer Lord Marlesford.

As an MP, Dr Poulter is powerless to intervene on local planning issues, but said he shared concerns about the environmental impact of a project of its proposed scale, adding: “There is strong feeling against this proposal. It would represent a massive change in the use of land away from agriculture, and a fundamental change in the environment of rural Suffolk - that is not something I support.”

The Government is committed to increasing the number of renewable energy sources, with feed-in tariff incentives on offer for solar installations. But Dr Poulter said Westminster’s support for green energy was also dependent upon appropriate location. “It is important we have renewable energy developments sited in the right place,” he added. “This would be completely out of character and out of keeping. On the evidence I have seen, and if the planning committee were to pass it, I think it would be right to raise the issue with the secretary of state.”

MEP Stuart Agnew has also expressed concern about arable land being taken out of production - but developers argue the project will generate “clean, renewable electricity with minimal impact on the surroundings”, but objectors say the land is still fertile. A spokesman for consultants PPS said on behalf of Hive Energy: “The nature of the low level panels means that field is still able to be used for grazing and agricultural use during the park’s 25-year lifespan and Hive Energy are also proposing a wildflower meadow. This scheme can help generate renewable energy in a low impact fashion, whilst agricultural use will continue alongside and underneath the panels.”

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