Hacheston: Solar farm bidders appeal refusal decision

A solar farm

A solar farm - Credit: ANDY MCGILL

A GREEN energy firm has launched an appeal over rejected proposals to construct one of Europe’s biggest solar farms in the Suffolk countryside.

A public inquiry will be held into the renewed bid by Hampshire company Hive Energy for a 25 megawatt (MW) capacity development on 127 acres of farmland in Hacheston, near Framlingham.

An independent inspector will now listen to the arguments for and against the scheme after district planners threw out the application earlier this year.

Suffolk Coastal’s planning board refused planning permission following objections from residents and neighbouring parish councils based on its size and the visual impact it would have on listed buildings in the village.

Concerns were raised about the risk of flooding caused by existing drainage pipes under the field being destroyed to make way for the panels.

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There was also resistance to farmland being taken out of agricultural production and replace with an industrial development.

Chairmen of three parish councils and a neighbouring landowner spoke out against the plan before the planning committee deliberated its verdict in January.

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Hive Energy had argued that the application was in line with local and national planning policy, and that the site was not considered to lie in an environmentally “sensitive” area.

It sees Suffolk as the next best area for predicted solar generation after the south west, where the grid structure is dominated by renewable energy.

The proposal was eventually rejected based on the potential affect on the landscape and visual impact, in spite of recommendations for approval by planning officers, and national policy favouring sustainable development.

Instead, councillors voted based on policy in the Local Plan and the pre-submission core strategy of the district’s own Local Development Framework.

A date for the inquiry has yet to be confirmed but all comments are due for submission by July 10.

Graeme Hall, chairman of Hacheston Parish Council, said: “The company are entitled to make an appeal but our position has not changed and we will be objecting on the same grounds. We are all hoping the inspector comes to the same decision as the planning committee.”

Giles Redpath, chief executive officer of Hive Energy, declined to comment.

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