Ingham: Solar farm applicant to defend plans at appeal

Site for Ingham solar farm application.

Site for Ingham solar farm application. - Credit: Archant

The applicant behind plans for a vast solar farm in the west Suffolk countryside is appealing the borough council’s decision to refuse the proposal.

Gamma Solar Ltd wants to build a solar farm made up of 108,000 solar panels in land north-west of Thetford Road, Ingham, but St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s development control committee threw out the scheme earlier this year.

Despite acknowledging the benefits of green energy, the committee felt the scheme’s size, visibility and proximity to the village of Ingham were the deciding factors.

However, the applicant is now appealing the decision, with a hearing scheduled to take place on September 16.

Mark Candlish, a director of Solafields, one of the development partners in the project, said the developers felt it was a very good place for a solar farm.

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“We got what we thought was a rather unfair decision at the planning committee and we had the officers’ recommendation for approval at the time. We said at the time we would be appealing it.

“The project is not right next to the village. It’s on former landfill land. It’s on a former council landfill site, and in response to the village we had really an enormous tree planting scheme in addition to it so we were quite surprised and disappointed when the committee rejected it.”

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The borough council has appointed external consultants to defend the appeal, and has also introduced a further reason for refusing the application.

A report which is going before the development control committee on Thursday said the solar farm was proposed to be located in agricultural land in the open countryside, but brownfield land should be prioritised over agricultural land.

Vic Blackwood, chairman of Ingham Parish Council, which is opposed to the plans, said: “Basically we still maintain it’s in the wrong place. We are not anti green energy per se, but just not right next to the village at that size.”

He said there was very little support in Ingham for the solar farm.

At the previous committee meeting landowner Charles Stennett said that about 14,000 trees would be planted to eventually screen the site from view, but councillors were unimpressed given these trees would take somewhere between seven and 15 years to grow.

The solar farm had an estimated power output of 26,100MwH per year - enough electricity for 5,520 homes.

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