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Plans for solar farms fuel fears in East Herts and Uttlesford



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An array of plans for solar farms in East Herts and Uttlesford is dividing communities.

While Bishop's Stortford Town Council's planning and development committee decided the benefits to the wider community and climate change meant it was right to raise no objection to Cambridgeshire-based Endurance Energy's project for Wickham Hall farm, Albury Parish Council has "strongly objected".

The scheme on the outskirts of Bishop's Stortford is the size of around 200 football pitches with the potential to produce up to 49.9MW of electricity – enough to power 15,000 homes sustainably.

Wickham Hall solar farm plans (54278568)
Wickham Hall solar farm plans (54278568)

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.

Albury Parish Council has told planning authority East Herts Council (EHC): "We don't feel this development offers anything to the area, only detracts, by ruining village vistas and removing farming employment.

"It does not appear to offer economic or employment benefits to Albury or the surrounding areas, in fact it may detract from the attractiveness of the area so much that people may be less willing to come, therefore reducing local spend, adversely affecting the local economy.

Wickham Hall solar farm plans (54278565)
Wickham Hall solar farm plans (54278565)

"Albury Parish Council is not anti-green energy or investment, but we feel there are much more efficient ways to achieve targets from the green agenda, such as solar panels on all the new houses being built. What with the new housing estates and the A120 bypass this parish has had to endure, we feel strongly about further destruction of our valued landscape.

"We object to this proposal as it stands on the basis of Green Belt destruction in our parish being unacceptable to us, the desecration of farmland being against national and local policy frameworks and the removal of habitat for wildlife going against district plans that we as a parish council have signed up to."

Albury's concerns are echoed in parishes across East Herts and Uttlesford, including Furneux Pelham, Stocking Pelham, Little Hadham, Berden, Manuden, Langley and Farnham as developers bid to site solar farms and lithium battery storage units within their boundaries.

Campaign groups have been formed, including Protect the Pelhams, to protest against the applications and emerging proposals for hundreds of acres of farmland.

Solar farm
Solar farm

Low Carbon plc wants to use 251 acres (101ha) for solar panels and energy storage at Berden. The site – known as Pelham Spring or Battles solar farm – extends into Manuden and is close to Furneux Pelham.

The area already has a lithium-ion battery plant, Pelham Storage. The Statera Energy facility has a peak output of 49.99MW and the potential to provide enough power for over 13,000 average UK homes at any moment.

Its operator has asked Uttlesford District Council (UDC) for a 'screening opinion' – a procedure used to determine whether a proposed project is likely to have significant effects on the environment – before it submits an application for another plant on a 165-acre (66ha) plot adjacent to the sub-station, south of Berden on the Stocking Pelham Road.

Solar farm
Solar farm

Pelham Power Ltd has already asked EHC for planning permission for a 50MW battery energy storage system facility north of the sub-station on land at Green's Farm, Stocking Pelham. The site – 3.5 acres (1.42ha) of cultivated agricultural land – is in the hamlet of East End.

A further solar installation has been mooted by Renewable Connections on 150 acres (60ha) running parallel with Violets Lane, Furneux Pelham.

Before Christmas, Stansted Airport launched community consultation for a 14MW facility on land owned by airport owner MAG (Manchester Airports Group) close to High House Farm, Takeley.

The airport has pledged to implement screening measures such as planting new trees, reinstating hedgerows and planting new hedgerows in the event its application is approved by planning authority UDC.

The solar farm is designed to meet and secure Stansted's energy demands and is in keeping with its commitment to make its operations net zero carbon by no later than 2038.

UDC has toughened up its development policies in response to the rash of applications. Conservative Cllr Susan Barker, the member for High Easter and the Rodings, and Liberal Democrat Cllr Janice Loughlin, who represents Stort Valley, won widespread support for the imposition of a condition to safeguard the sites' agricultural future.

Their motion said: "Any successful planning application for a solar farm or other energy-producing scheme on a green field in the Countryside Protection Zone or Green Belt site will have a condition applied to the permission which states that 'should all or part of the application site cease to be used for energy production the site will be returned to its greenfield/belt status and will not be considered as a brownfield site'."



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