Developer Endurance Energy submits plans for solar farm at Wickham Hall to straddle East Herts and Uttlesford border
A planning application for a solar farm at Bishop's Stortford's Wickham Hall estate has been submitted to East Herts and Uttlesford district councils.
The proposals were made public in June with a chance for residents to voice their views on the scheme for an area around the size of 200 football pitches and capable of producing 49.9 megawatts (MW) – or just under 50 million watts – of electricity, enough to power 15,000 homes.
The application has been formally lodged by Endurance Energy, a subsidiary of Endurance Estates, based in Foxton, Cambs, which is "dedicated to the promotion of sites for renewable energy uses".
It covers use of the 286.6-acre (116-hectare) site at Wickham Hall straddling the Herts and Essex county border for 40 years. The East Herts land totals 210 acres (85ha), primarily in Albury parish but with incursions into Little Hadham and Stortford. The development would also extend over 76.6 acres (31ha) of Green Belt in Farnham, on the Uttlesford side of the border.
The developer said that construction of the newly-opened Little Hadham A120 bypass had divided a number of Wickham Hall farmer David Harvey's arable fields into smaller, irregular-shaped parcels, making continued cultivation difficult.
When alternative uses were considered, the land was identified as being particularly suitable for solar power generation, as it is 1km (0.62 miles) from the National Grid's Bishop's Stortford sub-station.
Endurance has pledged to improve the public footpath network. Installation of the solar farm will create new routes for pedestrians and defined circular walks, with information boards showing the environmental benefits of solar energy.
There will be a minimum 25% net gain of biodiversity across the site by creating wildflower meadows around the solar panels, planting 10,000 new trees and native hedgerows.
Plans are also being put in place to protect any great crested newts which are "likely to be utilising suitable habitats within the site". They are a European-protected species and the animals, their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected by law.
A spokesperson for Endurance Energy said: "The solar farm at Wickham Hall is a great opportunity to provide sustainable and renewable energy for years to come. Increasing the proportion of renewable energy is key to helping the councils meet their 2030 carbon neutral targets.
"We are grateful to local residents for taking part in the community consultation over the summer. We were delighted to see so many in favour of our plans and the provision of solar energy in this location.
"Following the recent COP26 gathering in Glasgow, the increased need for renewable energy is high up on the agenda and very much at the forefront of people's minds.
"We will of course keep local residents updated as we progress with the planning application in the coming months via the dedicated project website www.wickhamhallsolarfarm.co.uk."