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Bridgham solar farm drop in event ‘interrupted’ by objectors

Bridgham residents have shown their objection to a proposed solar farm in their village during a drop-in session hosted by the developer.

The session was held last Thursday at Bridgham Village Hall, which the developers REthink Energy described as “successful”, but conceded the event was “interrupted” by “a small number of objectors.”

But Bridgham resident and campaigner against the proposed development, Mike Brown, said between 30 or 40 people entered the hall with ‘No To Solar Farm’ posters.

“It was just a legitimate protest. We are not a small minority,” he said. “They refused to speak to us as a group and answer direct questions. It has caused so much trouble.”

Concern has been raised that the 174-acre, 144,000 solar panel proposal, will affect the landscape and the environment.

The developers say the hedgerows would be restored open views preserved, while power would be generated for 10,000 local homes.

They have also offered residents £200 a year off their electricity bills for five years in a Local Energy Discount Scheme, should a resubmitted application for a solar farm development get the green light.

Last month, the Diss Express reported REthink were also offering a £200,000 conservation fund for the Brecks area, for initiatives that seek to enhance the “special natural character of the Brecks landscape and the species within it,” which was welcomed by Norfolk County Councillor for the Brecks Division, Ian Monson

Mr Brown added: “The landscape is not an abstract thing. If you screen a landscape from people’s views you have spoiled the integrity of that landscape.

“We have moved from a legitimate planning application being recommended for refusal by Breckland Council to an endless series of financial inducements which will ultimately be funded by the energy bill payer.”

Founder of REthink Energy, Pete Grogan, said: “It was a pleasure to meet so many local residents and to have an opportunity to better understand their views which we will take into account.

“It was also great to be able to get some feedback on the community benefits associated with the project and we are pleased that these have been so well received.”

“Unfortunately the evening was interrupted by a small minority of objectors. It is a shame that these objectors sought to deny their neighbours an opportunity to engage with us.

“We apologise to anyone who felt unable to speak to us while this disruption took place.”

Mark Dickenson, Bridgham Parish Council chairman, was also in attendance.

“Nobody asked us what we thought. They just told us what they think they are going to put up,” he said.

“That is not consultation in my eyes. I thought consultation was a two-way thing. They will say it was a success because a lot of people turned up.

“It was not interrupted. People just asked ‘can we ask questions?’ and they refused to answer group questions, and would only speak to people one-to-one.”

A planning application for the farm was withdrawn following widespread objection last year. Breckland Council officers had recommended refusal on the application.

The developers say they intend on submitting a new application later this year.

n Police are appealing for information after a banner objecting against a solar farm was stolen in Bridgham last week.

Police believe the incident happened some time between 10.30am on Thursday, March 6 and 7am on Saturday, March 8. Stolen from a house in The Street, Bridgham, the banner had been hung from a gate.

The banner, which measures 6 foot by 2 foot, has the words ‘Say no to solar farm’ in black and red.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the banner should contact Attleborough Police on 101.

n What do you think? Is your town or village subject to renewable energy developments? What do you make of the situation in Bridgham? Email us at editorial@dissexpress.co.uk, Tweet us @Diss_Express, or write to us at the address on page 8.

 

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