Government set to endorse district council’s decision

Sutton St James wind farm protestors
Sutton St James wind farm protestors
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People power is expected to win the day as the Government is set to turn down an appeal to build a massive third solar park in Sutton St James.

South Holland Council’s planning committee turned down the application last September but the applicant appealed and the plan was called in by the Secretary of State.

However, the Guardian understands that the Department of Communities and Local Government will shortly announce that it has upheld the council’s decision.

Councillors had gone against recommendations by planning officers in turning down the application by Little Eau Solar to install ground-mounted solar panels, transformer stations and an electricity sub-station on 12 hectares of arable land outside the village.

However, the plan was refused after MP John Hayes 
addressed the committee on new government policy regarding renewables on agricultural land.

He said yesterday (Wednesday): “Having campaigned against this from the outset and made representations both locally and to government ministers I very much hope that common sense will prevail and it will be turned down.

“It (the solar park) would do damage to local well being and that’s simply not good enough.

“In these situations I put myself in the position of the people most closely affected and they will be as delighted as I am if the council decision is upheld.”

Both Sutton St James and Sutton St Edmund parish councils were against the plans, citing impact on the villages, infrastructure, roads and local landscape character.

Seventeen households also objected, worried about the impact on nearby listed buildings and industrialisation of the area.

Michael Coleman of the Little Eau Opposition Group, said yesterday afternoon: “If that decision is made, we are very pleased... delighted.

“We are not against this type of development at all... it just has to be in the right place and Sutton St James was not that place.

“We already have one here, another has received planning permission and this would have been the third development. It would have been ridiculous.

“If you are going to have these types of developments then they must be spread out.”

He went on to say that Sutton St James was an unindustrialised, quiet and rural part of the Fens and that the impact on the village and its residents would have been detrimental.

He also paid tribute to Mr Hayes, saying: “His support has been tremendous and we are all extremely grateful to him.”

In response to the objections last year, Little Eau Solar said at the time that the UK has legally binding targets to generate 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and claimed “the cumulative landscape and visual impact will be negligible”.

They were also backed by some farmers who were disappointed by the initial refusal. One said: “What is there not to like about solar energy? Would people rather have ugly power stations or wind turbines?”