Solar farm must be refused say West Suffolk councillors

A massive solar farm could damage communities and businesses it has been claimed and has been described as “simply too big” and not in the “right location”.

West Suffolk Council is calling on the Secretary of State to refuse the application by Sunnica Energy.

The planning application is for a solar farm built across four sites, one near Mildenhall and West Row, another near Freckenham and Worlington and then on two other sites in East Cambridgeshire close to Newmarket. Cables would then run underground to connect the sites.

Due to its sheer size, the planning application has to be decided by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is anticipated that the decision won’t be given until next year.

But tonight (Tuesday, November 8) saw West Suffolk Council’s Cabinet discuss the scheme.

The meeting was the first opportunity in the planning process for the council to publicly debate whether it was for or against the proposals. And cabinet members unanimously voted against the plans. It will now call on the Secretary of State not to grant approval.

David Roach, cabinet member for Planning at West Suffolk Council said: “We are absolutely committed to solar and other renewable energy as part of our work to help tackle the climate change emergency. But the Sunnica proposals for four sprawling sites across two districts connected with underground cables is simply too big and it’s not the right location.  If it is given the go ahead, it could have a damaging impact on our communities, their homes and businesses, as well as to nature, the local landscape and more. That is why we are calling on the Secretary of State not to grant the application.”

West Suffolk Council already supports the principle of renewable energy including solar power.  It has installed solar panels on the roofs of businesses, community and public buildings, and it also owns one of the largest council owned solar farms at Toggam Farm, near Lakenheath.

But on 17.5hectares, the Toggam Farm complex is 35 times smaller than the one proposed by Sunnica which would stand on more than 621 hectares. There would also be additional land for Battery Energy Storage as well as a buffer where no other development could take place.

As a statutory consultee, West Suffolk Council has already been asked to provide the national planning inspectorate with assessments of the likely impact of the scheme. The planning inspectorate is gathering evidence that will inform the Secretary of State’s decision.

The council has expressed concerns over the impact to ecology and biodiversity, the local landscape, flood risk, traffic, as well as potential damage to the horse racing industry and tourism. It has also echoed safety fears raised by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service over the proposed battery energy storage system.

 

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