Controversial South Lopham solar farm plans recommended for approval

The Black Dog amd Duck
The Black Dog amd Duck

Officers at Breckland Council have recommended granting approval to a controversial solar farm application in South Lopham which has seen 180 objections.

Submitted by AVIC-PCI Ltd and proposed on 47 acres of Grade 2 agricultural land just off the A1066, it would generate 10MW of power.

A final decision on the application will be made on Monday.

The farm would comprise approximately 34,000 solar panels, six power cabinets, a substation, a 2.4 metre high wire grill fence around the perimeter with appropriate landscaping, and 10 CCTV cameras positioned on three-metre high poles.

Objections to the plans were also voiced by parish councils from South and North Lopham, Garboldisham and Blo’ Norton.

Issues raised by objectors include loss of good agricultural land, potential contamination of green land with chemicals on soil, impact on the character and appearance for the area, and impact on house and property value in the area.

The report read: “In conclusion it is considered that the proposed development represents an appropriate and sustainable form of development in this location will not significantly affect the landscape character of the area and hence is acceptable in planning terms.

“The application is, therefore, recommended for approval subject to conditions relating to landscape mitigation planting / screening, a biodiversity management plan, highways, lighting, noise, archaeology, and heritage asset mitigation.”

Co-ordinator of the Lophams Against Solar Farms group Alan Briggs issued a plea to residents in March to put their objections to Breckland Council following fears that a precedent had been set when a solar farm in Hardingham, on the same quality of land, was approved in December 2012.

On that occasion, there were 23 objections.

Mr Briggs has called on the council to listen to local opinion and government guidance.

“I suppose it was disappointing, but not as if it was the end of the world because we know it is only a recommendation.

“The planning committee do not have to follow that particular recommendation.

“People have responded in significant numbers. The next question is whether Breckland Council take note?

“They don’t have to take note but there is all these issues about government guidance that planning authorities should take of local residents - and that is a significant note.”

The developer’s local planning consultancy, Richard Pike Associates, said it was ‘pleased’ with the recommendation for approval.

The company said it had listened to the valid concerns of objectors and tried to address them wherever possible.

Speaking on behalf of the developers, Paul Smith said they were “conscious of the general opposition to the scheme by some local residents”, but hoped this might now be mitigated by “potential gains” the community overall may be able to enjoy should final approval be given.