More solar farms and battery storage facility proposed for agricultural land

The fields which will be the site for the second Berden solar farm if approved.

The fields which will be the site for the second Berden solar farm if approved. - Credit: Stop Battles Solar

Villagers are up in arms over outline plans for more solar farms on agricultural land in the district.

A new scheme between Berden and Stocking Pelham is being put forward by Statera Energy and it is understood that Renewable Connections is also proposing to apply for permission to build a third solar farm outside Furneux Pelham.

The projects come in the wake of a recent application to construct a 50MW battery storage facility on land behind Greens Farm, East End, Stocking Pelham.

Statera Energy has submitted an application for a screening request to Uttlesford District Council to determine whether an environmental impact assessment is required for the first of these sites.

The fields which will be the site for the second Berden solar farm if approved.

The fields which will be the site for the second Berden solar farm if approved. - Credit: Stop Battles Solar

Statera Energy’s proposal comes only months after Low Carbon Group published a proposal to construct a solar farm on 180 acres of land at Battles Farm, south of Berden and north of Manuden - which Low Carbon has named “Pelham Spring Solar Farm".  Following a pause in its consultation process, Low Carbon has now put forward additional land as the site for this development.

Low Carbon is currently seeking permission to build solar farms on 136 acres of agricultural land at Long Meadow Farm, near Wimbish and on a further parcel of 123 acres of land at Cutlers Farm, near Thaxted, having been granted permission by Uttlesford District Council to construct a solar farm at Terriers Farm, Thaxted in 2020.

John Burton, chair of Berden Parish Council, said: "The solar farm issue has brought people together in a way which I have not seen before - not just in Berden but across villages and county boundaries.

The fields which will be the site for the second Berden solar farm if approved.

The fields which will be the site for the second Berden solar farm if approved. - Credit: Stop Battles Solar

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"When the parish council was first contacted by the developer of the proposed Pelham Spring Solar Farm, I wanted to ensure that we had a clear mandate from the village to respond to the solar farm proposal.

"So we conducted a simple leaflet and electronic survey seeking the views of all Berden residents. The response rate was excellent and over 85 per cent of respondents told me that they objected to the Pelham Spring Solar Farm proposal.

"Manuden Parish Council followed suit and obtained a similar mandate from residents. We have also received excellent support from Stocking Pelham Parish Council and were therefore able to respond jointly to the Pelham Spring developer making it clear that all three parish councils objected to the proposed development."

Berden Parish Council then learned about a battery plant which is to being proposed for high quality agricultural land behind Greens Farm, East End. Having previously established a good working relationship, all three parish councils - together with Furneux Pelham Parish Council - have now written to East Herts District Council objecting to the scheme, which would be the second industrial battery storage unit in the area.

Mr Burton added: "The first battery unit was approved in 2016 and, having seen Uttlesford planners hoodwinked into granting permission without a proper landscape scheme and with no acoustic barrier, we are very mindful of lessons learned. Five years later we have faced with a visual blight and sparse hedge and tree planting. 

"Whilst everyone that I speak to accepts that there is a need to address climate change, they also believe passionately that the countryside is a precious amenity which should be protected. We are blessed with many footpaths and far reaching views which will become corridors surrounded by fences if these solar farms are built.

A battery plant already at Pelham.

A battery plant already at Pelham. - Credit: Stop Battles Solar

"I am saddened that some of the farmers in our community appear to be unwilling to take on the role of stewards of the countryside. The Government has stated that farmers have a crucial role in the national effort to tackle climate change, through reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon storage. Using farmland for industrial purposes such as building solar farms and battery plants does not seem to me to be consistent with this goal."

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