Council scraps Europe’s largest solar energy park planned for 900 acres of Fens farmland - now they count the cost

Solar park for 900 acres of Fens scrapped.

Solar park for 900 acres of Fens scrapped. - Credit: Archant

Europe’s largest solar energy park – that would have swallowed up 900 acres of farmland in the Fens- has been pulled.

Peterborough City Council has spent two years – and £3million- pushing the plans forward and had predicted profits of up to £7million a year.

But Councillor Gavin Elsey, cabinet member for communications for Peterborough City Council said today it would no longer happen.

“When we announced the schemes two years ago it was a completely different landscape and at that time the projects we were proposing could have generated significant income for the city,” he said.

Land at Morris Fen, Thorney and at Newborough would have been used for the solar farm with tenants of council owned farms forced to surrender their leases.


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Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said it would have meant the construction of 500,000 glass panels “the size of 700 football pitches on some of the most fertile land in England”.

And during a House of Commons debate a year ago Steve Barclay, the MP for NE Cambs, felt the scheme “does not look like value for money for the taxpayer”.

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The city council cabinet will receive a report next month recommending that plans for both schemes “are ceased”.

A council spokesman said that on October 2 the Government announced that support for large scale solar projects will be scrapped from April 2015.

“This is on the back of changes to national planning guidance on wind and solar schemes and national funding uncertainties for onshore wind schemes,” he said.

The spokesman cited local opposition “which have severely hampered the council’s ability to generate income from the projects”.

An internal review had also highlighted subsidy reductions and the likelihood of the government ‘calling in’ local decisions.

Cllr Elsey said: “This will not be an easy recommendation to make to cabinet, but we believe ceasing the projects at Newborough Farm and Morris Fen in Thorney is the right decision for Peterborough in view of the most recent government announcement and the many unforeseen changes that have happened on a national level.”

Cllr Elsey said two years ago the government “was fully accepting of our plans but a change in its focus means it is no longer as supportive of schemes of this nature”.

He said “final evaluations” are currently taking place to determine whether a third scheme at America Farm should progress.

“The council expects to recoup some of the costs which have been incurred so far to progress the three schemes if the America Farm project proceeds,” he said.

Cllr Elsey said one of the driving forces behind the solar projects was the “acute need” to improve the city’s finances.

With savings of £22million needed next year the council needed to find savings elsewhere or to find other ways of raising cash.

Mr Jackson had accused the council of a “lack of democratic accountability; the lack of public consultation and the treatment of the farmers and the rural communities in my constituency”. He had also warned of the “financial risk for the future finances of the city”.

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