High Court quashes planning inspector’s ruling on huge solar farm in Suffolk

View of Edwardstone church from the field where the proposed solar farm panels would be sited

View of Edwardstone church from the field where the proposed solar farm panels would be sited - Credit: reader pic/contributed

A battle to prevent a solar farm “the size of 37 football pitches” from being built in a special Suffolk landscape is set to resume after the High Court quashed a ruling banning the development.

In March, villagers in Newton, Boxford and Edwardstone believed they had won a victory over solar farm company Sun and Soil when a government planning inspector upheld Babergh’s decision to reject their application.

The proposal would have seen solar panels installed on 26 hectares of agricultural land at Rogers Farm off Siam Lane, between Newton and Edwardstone.

But the inspector concluded that the harm caused by the proposed scheme would “significantly and demonstrably outweigh the environmental benefits” and have an adverse impact on the landscape and the nearby listed buildings, including Grade I Listed St Mary’s Church in Edwardstone.

Now Sun and Soil has appealed to the High Court citing that the planning inspector failed to address the company’s claim that there was no other suitable lower grade land in the district where the solar farm could be built.

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The formal court order quashing the inspector’s decision was sealed on October 1 and Babergh was informed on November 12, but the council didn’t notify local parish and district councillors until November 20.

Boxford resident David Lamming, who wrote to the planning inspector about the case earlier this year, said local people were annoyed that they hadn’t been told sooner.

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He said: “When we received the planning inspector’s ruling, there was great relief because we thought he had made the right decision and that it was finally all done and dusted.

“Obviously, Babergh bears no responsibility for the planning inspector’s error in giving inadequate reasons in his appeal decision, but our criticism of the council is that it didn’t even notify people that the decision was under challenge, let alone that it had been quashed.

“All three parties (Sun and Soil, the Secretary of State and Babergh) signed a draft order consenting to the inspector’s decision being quashed in September and yet it wasn’t until November 20 that Babergh deigned to inform the parish councils concerned.”

According to a Babergh spokesman, the appeal will be re-determined and local people will again have a chance to submit their views. As before, the appeal is likely to be by written representations unless an alternative procedure is requested by either of the main parties.

The spokesman said: “Babergh has recently received correspondence from the Planning Inspectorate regarding an earlier appeal that now needs to be re-determined. This process is set out by the Planning Inspectorate and Babergh is working within the timeframe that has been set.

“Once the inspectorate has gathered all of its information within the set period, it will notify us how any appeal will proceed and detail the case for identifying local notifications procedures.

“As such, the consultation of interested parties will occur following the Planning Inspectorate’s notifications and all interested parties will again be able to make their comments on the appeal at that time.”

Last night no-one from Sun and Soil was available to comment on the case.

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