Henny: Solar farm bid ‘a blot on the landscape’


- Credit: PA

Opposition has been voiced against proposals to build a solar farm on land which could become part of an extended Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Braintree District Council has received an application for the development of a 300kiloWatt solar farm at Great Henny, in the Stour Valley near Sudbury.

Permission is being sought for 1,200 solar panels on an acre of agricultural land together with the construction of a small substation and a two-metre tall perimeter fence.

But councillors from neighbouring parishes have opposed the development, saying it will be a “blot on the landscape” and that it will tarnish an area of cultural importance. They say there are plans for the area to form part of the Dedham Vale AONB, which are currently being scrutinised by Natural England.

At present, the designated area of the Dedham Vale AONB covers 90sq km and stretches upstream from Manningtree to within one mile of the village of Bures.

Any significant extension of the AONB to the west is likely to include part or all of Great Henny.

But, according to Robert Erith, chairman of the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership, just how far the boundary might be extended westward is currently unclear.

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He said: “As yet the boundaries of any extended AONB have not been confirmed. The work to extend the AONB is continuing – there needs to be an evaluation of the land by Natural England but we are told we are one of 15 extensions they are seriously considering.”

Mr Erith said that if the area around Great Henny was given AONB status, it would result in more people visiting the area and bring economic benefits to nearby B&Bs and other rural businesses.

Mr Erith added: “We are not opposed to all solar farms but there are some locations where they are not appropriate. If the solar farm is to be placed within or near the boundaries of the extended AONB, then we oppose them.”

Representatives of the applicant, EEC Power Systems, said they were unable to comment on the issue last night. However, the planning statement for the solar farm lists a number of factors that it is claimed will mitigate the impact of the development including hedgerows to hide the panels and the low-lying nature of the site.

But the majority of parish councillors remain unconvinced by the plans. Representatives from Great Henny, Middleton and Twinstead recently held a specially-arranged meeting to discuss the issue and voted six to one against the plans.

Parish councillor for Twinstead, David Holland, said: “We have opposed the application on planning grounds but the truth is there are some places, such as brownfield sites, where a solar farm would have little impact and places where it is plainly unsuitable.

“The landscape here is far more valuable left as it is in terms of the money it will generate for local tourism.

“If the AONB is to be extended, it is logical that this area will be included because of its cultural importance. It takes in views of Henny church, which were made famous by Gainsborough through his landscape paintings.

“The area is remarkable for its cultural significance and a solar farm there would literally be a blot on the landscape.”