Debate heats up over Saffron Walden solar farm

More than 1,500 homes could be powered by the proposed solar farm at Butlers Farm, Saffron Walden

More than 1,500 homes could be powered by the proposed solar farm at Butlers Farm, Saffron Walden - Credit: Archant

More than 1,500 homes in Saffron Walden could be powered by a new solar farm as early as March next year – but only if it receives a sunnier reception than its predecessor.

Opponents of the proposed site north of the town will have until Monday to voice their objections to the council, after which a decision will be made on the controversial plan.

The 19 acre 7.7MW farm is the second to be proposed by Push Energy Ltd this year.

The original application – in a different site but on the same farm – was refused in January on grounds of “impact to the landscape”, but supporters say this site may be better located.

Jonathan Duke, who has run Butler’s Farm with his father Martin for the last 11 years, said: “I will be giving it my full backing.

“Its impact on the environment is a positive one I think – it’s not intensive, it’s not noisy.

“The solar panels wouldn’t be a permanent fixture either.

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“I’m all for alternative energy – we’ve got solar panels on the barn roof at Butler’s Farm.

“This land will be not subjected to intensive farming – it will be organic, and there will be sheep grazing on it all year round.”

Those opposing the new farm are concerned with the aesthetic impact on the landscape, which is currently used by runners, dog-walkers, horse-riders and ramblers.

Claire Thompson, 51, a triathlete and personal trainer at Wilburs gym on the High Street, has mixed feelings about the plan.

“I think it’s very sad that a beautiful part of land might be taken over,” she said.

“I have loved running here for many years and like so much of Saffron Walden, it is a very special place.

“But I also appreciate that people have to have different forms of energy, whether that’s in the form of solar energy or wind power.”

Castle Ward representative Cllr David Sadler is opposed to the proposal.

“I as their local member will again be supporting residents in my ward in their campaign to prevent this from going forward,” he said.

“While I am not against solar farms in principle, the town will not benefit directly from any of the energy generated on this site.

“I also feel it could be better located as to not directly impact a small community on the outskirts of Saffron Walden.”

Residents wishing to comment on the application need to write to UDC or email by October 13.