Breckland Council have rejected a developer’s plan to build one of the largest solar farms in the county in the village of Bridgham.
The council’s planning committee voted 7-3 against REthink Energy’s proposal on Monday, which would have seen more than 120,000 solar panels installed on about 174 acres of agricultural land at Hall Farm and Field Barn Farm, and had attracted nearly 200 objections.
It would have stood for 25 years, generating enough power for 10,000 homes.
Issues raised by objectors had included the loss of farm land, negative impacts on biodiversity and an increase in traffic due to heavy goods vehicles.
And the committee appeared to listen to those fears, throwing out the plans against the recommendation of approval by planning officers.
In their conclusion, the committee felt the size, scale, design and materials of the project in the rural location would result in a “large alien feature”, causing harm to the character and setting of Bridgham. They also felt it would lead to “good quality” agricultural land being lost, which could potentially be used for food production, while traffic movements during the construction phase could lead to “significant harm” to residents.
This was the second proposal the Berkshire-based company had submitted, after withdrawing an initial application in 2013.
Pete Grogan, founder of REthink Energy, told the Diss Express: “Whilst we respect the decision, of the reasons given for refusal the absence of a valid planning reason was notable in our opinion.
“We are confident that we have a very strong application.”
Bridgham Parish Council chairman Mark Dickenson said he was “delighted” at the decision, and praised the 30 or so villagers who attended the meeting in support.
“The councillors at the meeting saw it the same way as we felt,” he said. “We were a bit worried with the potential decision but we were very pleased with the outcome.
“We were concerned that it could follow the recommendation.
“There is likely to be an appeal but we will fight that next step.
“I assume that will probably happen but it is over to REthink to overturn the council’s decision now which is hard.
“The main thing the councillors seemed to see was that the site visit, seeing it for themselves, really made their minds up about it and the scale of it, in real life, rather than just on a plan.”
Mr Dickenson added he felt this was proof local democracy works.
“It has been hard work but it shows we have got to keep going in what we believe in. Credit to the villagers who have done a lot of research.”
The Bridgham village website (www.bridgham.org.uk) was updated following the meeting, praising the ‘Magnificent Seven’ who voted against REthink’s solar plans.
The website read: “The primary concern for the village was the proposed huge industrial solar plant. But common sense has prevailed.
“This morning, January 19th 2015, the ‘Magnificent Seven’ Councillors rejected the planning application.
“On behalf of the great majority of Bridgham residents we would like to thank those seven councillors who, so eloquently, made the case as to why this development should not be allowed.”
n Did Breckland Council make the right decision? Is your area subject to a planning application for renewable energy?
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