Council rejects solar farm plan for Stocking Pelham

The site of the proposed solar farm between Stocking Pelham, Hertfordshire and Berden, Essex

The site of the proposed solar farm, which has been rejected by Uttlesford District Council planners - Credit: Stop Battles Solar

A new solar farm cannot be built because of problems with its suggested layout, potential impact on vulnerable animals and highway safety, the district council has said.

Uttlesford District Council's officers rejected the Pelham Spring plan to generate solar energy in fields near Manuden.

Low Carbon Solar Park 6, the company behind the plans, has said its ambition to generate renewable energy across the country is "undimmed".

A UDC report reads: "Insufficient evidence has been submitted in support of the application to demonstrate that there would not be an unacceptable impact to protected species and their habitats."

They said great crested newts, bats and hazel dormice live nearby.

The report continues: "Poor layout and position of solar panels in and around towers and below high-voltage overhead electricity lines would not enable appropriate access to important infrastructure.

"Insufficient information has been provided to demonstrate that the proposed highway works scheme is acceptable in terms of highway safety."

A Low Carbon 6 spokesperson said: "We are disappointed by the refusal to approve the proposed Pelham Spring Solar Farm.

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"We recognise that there are unique complexities associated with each of our projects, which we bear in mind throughout the planning process.

"We appreciate the diligent work of the case officers involved and we look forward to providing more information.

"Our ambition to bring carbon-neutral energy to communities across the country remains undimmed."

A group which has campaigned against the development called Stop Battles Solar welcomed the decision.

A group spokesperson said: "Berden can't rest on its laurels."

They noted that a different company - Statera Energy - has requested a screening opinion from UDC as part of plans for a solar farm on a different site on land adjacent to Pelham Substation on Park Green Lane near Berden.

They added: "There is such a large number of these unwanted developments on agricultural land that campaign groups across the country have banded together to form the Solar Campaigns Alliance."

The new organisation is petitioning Parliament to produce a Farmland Protection Policy, which has received more than 2,500 signatures so far: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/606663