Approval is recommended for controversial solar farm scheme

Plans for a new solar farm will be decided by South Holland District Council's planning committee tomorrow.
Plans for a new solar farm will be decided by South Holland District Council's planning committee tomorrow.
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Planners are expected to give the green light to a solar farm on agricultural land outside Sutton St James tomorrow evening – despite a raft of 
objections.

Applicant Little Eau Solar wants to build the development at New Fen Dike, just over a mile from the edge of the village.

The company wants to install ground-mounted solar panels, transformer stations and an electricity sub-station on 12 hectares of arable land.

The development would have a lifespan of 25 years and the land could then be returned to agricultural use.

It would power around 939 homes and save approximately 2,714 tonnes of CO2 from being produced.

The site would be accessed directly from New Fen Dike at its junction with Goochgate.

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

The council has also received a detailed submission from the Little Eau Opposition Group.

They say there was not an adequate search for alternative sites, assessments carried out are not sound and the 25-year lifespan should not be a consideration.

Seventeen households have objected. Some of their concerns are the impact on nearby listed buildings and industrialisation of the area. It was also pointed out that a farm security fence application nearby was turned down as being “harmful to the rural character”.

They say farming land is unlikely to be restored, the scheme would be intrusive and the visual impact would be devastating.

Houses near the site would be adversely affected, they say, no consideration has been 
given to wildlife or the opinions of local residents.

There is also a feeling that if the scheme is granted, other solar farms will be approved, damaging and industrialising the landscape.

However, there have also been letters of support, citing the reduction in carbon emissions, the provision of jobs and the fact that the land will be returned to farming use.

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

In recommending approval, South Holland District Council’s principal planning officer says it is not considered that the adverse impacts outweigh the benefits of the scheme in terms of its production of renewable energy.

Conditions include that the scheme must be started within three years, everything must be removed from the site within six months of it closing and no vehicles used for installation of the development should use Goochgate or Sandy Gate.

Councillors will consider the plan at tomorrow’s planning committee meeting at the council offices in Spalding.