Fenland’s walking on sunshine as region’s first solar farm is given go ahead

A DISTRICT councillor says the council made a mistake when it decided to approve Fenland’s first solar farm but delayed the decision on the region’s second.

Councillor Mark Archer said the planning committee’s decision to approve a 5MW solar farm near Burnthouse Sidings, Turves, but defer a 2.7MW solar farm at Reach Drove, Whittlesey, was wrong.

The planning committee asked Lark Energy to come back after the company had discussed with Whittlesey Town Council a community building that could be powered by their proposed farm at Reach Drove, which would power up to 650 homes.

However they approved Abbey’s plans for a farm at Burnthouse Sidings, enough to power 1,200 houses, despite they also failed to select a beneficial community building but had included the proposal in the application. Instead councillors included a caveat to power a primary or secondary school, a village hall or another community facility.

Cllr Archer said: “Fenland should pride itself in its green identity. I am fairly supportive of this technology that other countries are embracing which I why I want it to go ahead.

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“If the farmer were to use the land to grow rapeseed for energy it would be more wasteful as it only produces a tenth of energy farmed from solar.”

The committee was asked by Councillor Jan French to defer Lark Energy’s plans when she highlighted they lacked a community benefit.

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“I don’t want the council to make a rash decision this afternoon, I would like Lark Energy to decide on a building with the town council and come back with an agreement,” she said. “We needed to defer as we can’t add on conditions after the decision.”

Planning officers warned the planning committee that it should treat both proposals equally and defer the Abbey Renewable proposal after councillors looked like they would approve the plans.

Councillor Ken Peachey, who opposed the Turves application, said: “This is an area of high food production value. I don’t understand how we are taking this land away from food when we have other farmers struggling elsewhere so the farm should be placed somewhere better suited.”

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