Solar farm planning application near Thaxted

Uttlesford District Council, Saffron Walden, Essex: street view of building and gate

Uttlesford District Council in Saffron Walden - Credit: Will Durrant

A decision over a solar farm application that prompted hundreds of objections through petitions and letters has been deferred to a future meeting.

Uttlesford District Council’s planning committee felt more detail was needed before making a final decision on the site at Cutlers Green Lane.

The site is 52.35 hectares of agricultural fields. The area is southwest of Bolford Street, west of Cutlers Green and 1.5 miles from Thaxted.

Cutlers Solar Farm Ltd's application stated the proposed development would generate approximately 40 MW of renewable energy, which could power over 13,291 homes and displace up to 8,986 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The meeting heard the single scheme could provide 10% of the district’s electricity using just 0.1% of the land.

But residents feared the farm would destroy picturesque countryside. They also raised concerns about its potential impact on food production, since the site is currently used for agriculture.

No objections were from statutory consultees Natural England, Historic England or Essex County Council.

Thaxted Parish Council warned it could have a significant visual and environmental impact.

Most Read

Councillor Victoria Knight told the committee: “Despite what Natural England say, the land will be lost completely for two generations and after that it’s highly unlikely it’ll be fit for anything other than redevelopment.”

According to council documents, the farm would have to be decommissioned after 40 years and returned to greenfield status, in this instance agricultural use.

Speaking on behalf of the application, James Hartley-Bond, head of project development for Low Carbon, said: “I think it’s worth making the point that the government has been very clear that net-zero cannot be achieved without onshore renewables and that solar will form an important building block of the energy mix of the future.”

Later he said: “The creation of clean, renewable energy is clearly a key aim, but the benefits extend further and include powering 10% of the district’s electricity requirements, including one third of the households, for just 0.1% of the land in Uttlesford.”

Councillors acknowledged food production, housing, space for biodiversity net-gain requirements and renewable energy were competing for a finite amount of land.

Councillor Richard Pavitt said: “This application I find profoundly depressing.

“What it reflects is a mad scramble to exploit our most finite resource, namely our productive land, in a setting where the government’s in complete disarray in terms of policy.”

The developers presented a single, full application, rather than seeking permission for outline and then detailed proposals.

Committee members on Wednesday, January 19 decided there was not enough detail to make a properly informed decision at the current time.

As a result, they unanimously voted to defer the application. A final decision will be made at a later meeting.

At least two other solar farms are being proposed for the district in separate applications, one near Battles Wood and the other near the village of Great Notley.