Planning inspector throws out massive solar farm scheme near Sudbury following appeal

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

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

A solar farm the ‘size of 37 football pitches’ cannot be built in a special Suffolk landscape, a Government planning inspector has ruled.

Last February, a bid by solar farm company Sun and Soil to install solar panels on 26 hectares of agricultural land between Newton and Edwardstone was rejected by Babergh’s planning committee.

This was despite council officers recommending the application for approval.

The company subsequently appealed against the decision and Government inspector John Braithwaite visited the site, at Rogers Farm, last month.

Yesterday he delivered his verdict and dismissed the appeal, citing in his six page report that “the harm that would be caused by the proposed development significantly and demonstrably outweighs the environmental benefits of the solar power scheme.”

Mr Braithwaite, who recently overturned a similar decision on appeal, said: “In this case, determination must be made in accordance with the development plan and planning permission is thus withheld for the construction of a solar farm for the generation of electricity from a renewable resource at Rogers Farm.”

Mr Braithwaite agreed with Babergh’s planning committee and other opponents of the scheme who had grave concerns about the impact it could have on the landscape and the nearby listed buildings including Grade I Listed St Mary’s Church in Edwardstone.

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They were also worried about the loss of prime agricultural land for the 25 years of the solar farm’s operational life.

It took nearly eight months for an inspector with the necessary expertise in renewable energy and heritage matters to be appointed to the case.

Boxford resident David Lamming – who wrote to the planning inspectorate about the delay – said there was a great relief among the protestors that the inspector had reached the right decision.

He said: “The inspector made reference to the fact that the application conflicts with Government planning policy on several levels, including that it would cause substantial harm to the landscape.

“Having made representations to suggest the appeal should be dismissed, I am satisfied with the outcome.”

But last night, Andy Allen, director of Sun and Soil, hinted that the company’s bid may not be over yet.

He said: “We submitted key material and information that hasn’t been taken into account or investigated in this decision.

“We might bring up our concerns with the inspector. It is early days and we have yet to decide on our next move.”