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Developer gets ready to submit Wickham Hall solar farm plans

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Consultation has begun on plans for a solar farm the size of around 200 football pitches on the outskirts of Bishop's Stortford.

Cambridgeshire-based Endurance Energy’s project for Wickham Hall farm will produce up to 49.9MW of electricity – enough to power 15,000 homes sustainably.

The 284-acre (115-hectare) site straddles the Herts and Essex border. East Herts land totals 210 acres (85ha), primarily in the parish of Albury 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 Essex side of the county and district border.

Solar farm plans (47951636)
Solar farm plans (47951636)

The land was previously large fields used to produce arable crops, but construction of the Little Hadham A120 bypass has turned a number into irregular pockets which are inefficient for cultivation.

Endurance says that while the farm of around 14,000 photovoltaic panels is operational over the next 40 years, the soil will be rested, increasing biodiversity on the site by at least 25%, before being returned to agricultural use in the future.

Wildflower grasslands will be created around the panels and 10,000 new trees and hedgerows will support bees, birds, reptiles and bats.

Solar farm plans (47951641)
Solar farm plans (47951641)

There are several public rights of way through the Wickham Hall estate. Installation of the solar farm will create new footpaths and defined circular walks, with information boards showing the environmental benefits of solar energy.

The site is one kilometre (0.62 miles) from the National Grid’s Bishop’s Stortford sub-station, which has the connection capacity to receive additional supplies of electricity. Endurance says such proximity between a sub-station in a built-up area and a viable site for solar power generation is rarely available.

The Climate Change Act 2008 introduced the first legally binding target for 2050 to reduce greenhouse gases by 80%. This was enhanced further in 2019 with the Government amending the Act to a target of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Electricity demand is expected to increase significantly as fossil fuels are phased out – and Endurance says increasing the proportion of power generated from renewable sources is critical to tackling climate change.

A solar farm (47951591)
A solar farm (47951591)

A spokesperson 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 help the councils meet their 2030 carbon neutral targets.

“Over the coming weeks, we will be using our consultation website and virtual meetings with key stakeholders in the local community to gather views on these proposals. We want as many residents as possible to give feedback on the proposals and we will take them into account wherever possible.”

View the plans online and submit feedback at www.wickhamhallsolarfarm.co.uk. An online presentation is being held via Zoom at 7.30pm next Tuesday (June 15). To register to attend, visit the website or call 0800 148 8911.

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