Rogers Farm, Newton

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Next Wednesday I am a substitute on Babergh’s Planning Committee to consider an application for a change of use from agricultural land to a twenty six hectare solar farm. From the farmer’s point of view it must make sense to convert a quality field (winter wheat) into a solar farm. The field slopes away from the farm house and the visual intrusion is quite reasonable – especially when you consider the income from a field which is forecast to provide approximately 15 Megawatts peak (MWp) of electricity, sufficient to provide the power needs of 3,390 average U.K. households, which is equal to 8% of all households within Babergh. The local population are not happy. The installation will be seen from quite a wide area (as indicated from the photograph from Edwardstone Village Hall). The Box River Valley is a significant tourist area. The nearest piece of the Edwardstone Woods Site of Special Scientific Interest is only 150 metres away and a small part of the site is within the Box River Valley Special Landscape Area. North Norfolk District Council recently rejected a similar application for a wind turbine. The application went to appeal. The Planning Inspector  overturned the decision and North Norfolk referred to the matter to the High Court arguing that the decision flew in the face of the will of the local community. Now a High Court Judge has ruled against the Inspector on the grounds that he did not have sufficient special regard to the desirability of preserving the setting of the listed buildings. The life of the solar farm is expected to be about twenty five years. Experts believe that they will be obsolete long before then and in the meantime it will take ten years for the new screening trees to become effective. Overall I think that this will be an interesting debate and as always my mind is open to the arguments of the developers and the residents. What was I doing on Wednesday? I was viewing the site from various angles – a character building two hours of walking about in the cold and the wellingtons.

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