Developer’s offer to villagers is ‘cynical’

Bridgam residents protesting against the proposed 174 acre solar farm earlier last year. Photo: Ray Mumford.
Bridgam residents protesting against the proposed 174 acre solar farm earlier last year. Photo: Ray Mumford.

A parish council chairman has described the offer of £200 off electricity bills to residents from a developer wishing to build a solar farm in their village as “cynical.”

An application for the solar farm on Hall Farm and Field Barn Farm in Bridgham was submitted last summer, but was subsequently withdrawn in September following widespread objection.

The London-based company proposed to install 144,288 panels on a 174 acre solar farm. The development, which would have been the biggest in Norfolk, would have provided power to more than 10,000 local homes. Developers REthink have 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

Mark Dickenson, chairman of Bridgham Parish Council, described the offer as “cynical”.

“That is a lot of money for some people in the village,” he said. “We are not opposed to solar panels. It is the siting of them. We have singled out many places within the parish. We have a large industrial estate with buildings with nothing on them, we have the sites near the A11 and the rail tracks. But they wish to use it on open, usable farm land which is currently used for crops.

“The application was withdrawn last year so we can’t fight the current application because there is no application. We still have no idea about what is proposed. They have to consult with us before they put in an application . It is very difficult.

“There is absolutely no support for it (solar farm). I have not had one single call from a person to say they support it.”

But REthink founder Pete Grogan has described the response as “excellent.”

“Bridgham residents have been quick to express their support for the offer and just one week in, the response has been excellent,” he said. “At a time when energy bills from the ‘Big Six’ are rocketing and with families feeling the pinch, we are pleased to be able to help by using a local renewable energy project to subsidise home electricity bills. Local communities should always be the first to benefit.”

Mike Brown, Bridgham resident and campaigner against the solar farm, said: “A lot of strong feelings have been resurrected after several months of healing following the withdrawal of the application. This is a matter of great sadness as we, as a village, have enjoyed many years of harmony. Whilst I understand and empathise with people feeling their intelligence has been insulted or their sense of value can be purchased in this way, it is regrettable that it should manifest itself again.”

Breckland Council officers had recommended refusal for the original application. They confirmed a new application has not yet been resubmitted.