Solar farm given go-ahead

BE Renewables, which hosted this solar farm fun day at Sutton St James Village Hall where families met Mickey Mouse, have won approval for a 52-acre solar energy plant at Fendyke Farm in the village.  Photo by Tim Wilson.
BE Renewables, which hosted this solar farm fun day at Sutton St James Village Hall where families met Mickey Mouse, have won approval for a 52-acre solar energy plant at Fendyke Farm in the village. Photo by Tim Wilson.

Fears over a village having to be renamed Solar St James because of plans for a solar farm there have increased after approval of the scheme.

A 52-acre solar energy plant on land in Fen Dyke, Sutton St James, is to be built after South Holland District Council’s planning committee voted for the plans by 14 to one at a meeting on Wednesday.

The scheme to build more than 56,000 two-meter high solar panels at Fendyke Farm had been unanimously rejected at a planning meeting in July.

But an undertaking by developers Fendyke Solar Ltd to cut the size of the development by almost 30 acres and a pledge to set up a Community Benefit Fund worth up to £18,000 a year helped convince councillors to back the scheme.

Bob Ayres, managing director of BE Renewables and planning agent for Fendyke Solar Ltd, said: “We are delighted to receive the support of planning committee members and planning approval for Fendyke Solar Farm.

“During the months we have been working on this project, several community engagement events have been held and we will continue to do so over the coming months.

“We would expect to commence building in spring 2015 and once the project is built, it will provide an annual community benefit fund, through a charitable trust, for the benefit of Sutton St James of just under £18,000 per annum.”

However, Paul Hinks of Sutton St James, who spoke against the plans on Wednesday, said: “It’s a complete turnaround from the July meeting when the application was thrown out unanimously and, in my view, it was a done deal by the time of the meeting on Wednesday.

“The Community Benefit Fund has completely turned people in the village and some I’ve spoken to say they’re not part of Sutton St James anymore.

“I’m worried for the future as to what’s going to happen here because it’s bad use of good, fertile land.”