Campaign launched against another solar farm plan for district
- Credit: Stop Battles Solar
The company behind plans for massive solar farms on hundreds of acres of local agricultural land has unveiled proposals for yet another scheme in the district.
The Low Carbon Group is proposing a solar farm on 180 acres of land at Battles Farm, south of Berden and north of Manuden.
The scheme would be built in a heritage landscape with 30 listed buildings within 1km of the proposed site, and Battles Wood, listed as an ancient woodland, would be engulfed by the farm.
LCG has been very active in the surrounding area, with various schemes in the pipeline.
Terriers Farm, Thaxted is a consented site which is due to be constructed shortly, and the company is also exploring possible sites at Long Meadow Farm, near Wimbish, Cutlers Farm, near Thaxted and Pelham Spring Farm, near Maggots End.
Newly formed campaign group Stop Battles Solar is fighting against the latest scheme and calling on Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to create a firm policy on where solar farms can be sited.
A spokesperson said: "There is more solar power either available or approved for construction in Uttlesford than in any other planning district in Essex. This might suggest that Uttlesford council’s approach to the approval of planning applications for solar farms is at odds with government policy.
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"The approach currently being adopted by LCG and others strongly suggests that, in absence of a clear policy position from UDC as to the appropriate locations for solar farms, any agricultural site in close proximity to a high voltage power supply and/or substation is regarded by solar farm developers as fair game.
"It is simply not acceptable for solar farms to be constructed on good quality agricultural land which is judged by solar farm developers to be a “convenient” location. What is needed is clear guidance as to suitable locations. And this guidance needs to be issued as a matter of urgency."
A spokesperson for Low Carbon explained their strategy for the region: "One of the key challenges in delivering renewable energy projects such as solar is the availability of viable grid connections. At this time there is available capacity at a number of locations in Uttlesford district and we are working with local stakeholders including landowners Uttlesford District Council and the wider community to identify the best sites and deliver all projects in a consultative manner.
"When we identify a site, we are committed to early engagement with the local community to understand the impacts and consider whether the siting can be changed or adjusted – for example visual impact mitigation could include set-backs and additional landscaping.
"Ultimately, the more people that get in contact to discuss concerns, the better the chance that we have to consider and potentially accommodate requests."
The company said it takes the matter of the loss of agricultural land very seriously, and balances this against the green energy benefits of solar power.
"We assess all sites with a viable grid connection based on their individual attributes and always seek to minimise environmental and visual impact in collaboration with the landowner and local community. We are also involved in the active management of solar sites for net environmental gain – be that through the protection of existing ecology and hedging, biodiversity increases through natural planting schemes or co-grazing as part of our site management schemes.
"Solar farms are a temporary and reversible use of farmland – the modules are typically mounted on piles, to be removed at the end of the planning consent period, enabling the land to return to agriculture."
You can view and comment on the latest planned solar farm on the UDC website www.uttlesford.gov.uk quoting the references UTT/19/1864/FUL and UTT/21/0643/SCO