Suffolk: D-Day for 66 hectare Barnham solar farm
- Credit: Archant
One of the biggest solar farms in the UK has been recommended for approval despite claims from conservation groups and civic leaders that it could cause environmental and archaeological damage.
Under the proposals, a total of 118,900 solar panels would be installed on six closely related parcels of land at West Farm, Barnham, near Bury St Edmunds, capable of generating 29 megawatts of power.
The application for the 66 hectare site by Elveden Farms Ltd, which will be discussed today at a St Edmundsbury Borough Council development control committee, includes land within the Breckland Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Breckland Special Protection Area (SPA), designated for its population of rare stone curlew.
The Elveden Estate insists the proposal has been designed to reduce negative impacts on these areas while protecting and improving “the existing biodiversity and ecology value of the site” by creating grassland under the panels that would function as wildlife corridors and habitats.
But Barnham Parish Council said the application was “totally inappropriate and environmentally damaging” and suggested the Breckland SSSI would suffer “irrecoverable damage” if the solar farm went ahead.
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Writing to planners, Ian Clark, chairman of the council, also raised concerns about the possibility that West Farm could be contain archaeology of national importance, like those found at two neighbouring sites in Elveden and East Farm, Barnham.
He added: “Due to the possible environmental harm, the probable archaeological damage, the likely amenity impairment, the conflict with policies of St Edmunds Borough Council and the lack of any benefit to our parishioners, we would strongly urge rejection of this unacceptable application.”
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Fiona Cairns, director of Suffolk Preservation Society, said in a letter to planners that the farm would be a “highly visible alien feature” within the Breckland landscape and would result in the loss of a significant greenfield site.
But speaking when the application was submitted, Jim Rudderham, forestry and conservation manager for Elveden Estate and Farms, said the site had been chosen because it was “invisible” from main roads and was land of low agricultural yield. He added that the array would encourage natural vegetation between the panels and provide protected feeding areas for pairs of rare stone curlews in the area.