Distraught members of a South Lopham family have spoken of their shock at proposals for an industrial development of solar panels around their home.
The Bedford and Ashdown family have described the plans - for a 11.7MW ‘solar farm’ with temporary construction area, security perimeter fencing and cameras - on 43.98 acres of agricultural land around their home at Mill Pond Farmhouse, as “like a bomb being dropped on us”.
Four proposed sites in North and South Lopham were unveiled to the local community at a public meeting at Lophams Village Hall last Friday, and reported the same day in the Diss Express.
Around 600 people attended and a poll conducted by both parish councils at the meeting found 97 per cent of the respondents to be against all four sites. Since then, three of the sites have been withdrawn but the one around Mill Pond Farmhouse, adjacent to the busy A1066 Thetford Road, is still on the table and the subject of a screening opinion put by developers Richard Pike Associates before Beckland Council. Jane Hunting, planning consultant with Richard Pike Associates, told the Diss Express the firm was looking at reducing the size of the proposed site around Mill Pond Farmhouse by five acres, thereby moving the solar panels and temporary construction area further away from the Bedfords’ property. “This would remove anything from near their boundary,” she said.
Doug and Sharon Bedford moved to the property three years ago with Mr Bedford’s father, Bill, who converted the stables block into living accommodation. They were joined by Mrs Bedford’s parents, John and Gillian Ashdown, who both suffer with ill health. Mrs Ashdown recovered from lung cancer but now has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) while Mr Ashdown has been diagnosed with four different forms of cancer. They hoped the rural location would be peaceful and therapeutic.
Mr Ashdown said: “Stress caused my cancer and when we moved here, we thought we had got our lives back.” He said if the plans went ahead, it would “be like being confined to prison and the property won’t be worth a thing”.
Mrs Bedford said: “This new suggestion would only move the panels back a fraction and the construction site will still be close to our house because the access road stops at the bottom of our property. There will still be lorries back and forward creating potential hazard on a stretch of road that is busy and dangerous.”
In addition to concern for her parents’ health, which she believes would deteriorate even further with the stress caused by the development, she added it was “not green to put metal panels and poles in a field that should be farmed.”