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Decision postponed on Sunnica’s proposal for massive solar farm spanning West Suffolk border

A decision on plans for a massive solar farm spanning the West Suffolk border has been postponed.

Claire Coutinho, the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, was due to announce today whether Sunnica Ltd would be allowed to build the farm, which would cover more than 2,700 acres, much of it farmland, engulfing several villages on the borders of West Suffolk and East Cambridgeshire and reaching the edge of Newmarket.

Villagers living in Chippenham, Isleham, Freckenham, Fordham, West Row, Worlington, Burwell, Barton Mills, Red Lodge, Chippenham and Snailwell would all be affected should the scheme be given the go-ahead, with solar panels being installed within 10 metres of homes in some places.

Campaigners have been fighting Sunnica's solar farm plan for years
Campaigners have been fighting Sunnica's solar farm plan for years

However, it has been announced that the Secretary of State will be setting a new deadline for a decision on the application.

An update on the Planning Inspectorate website said a statement confirming the new deadline for a decision will be made to the House of Commons and House of Lords in accordance with section 107(7) of the Planning Act 2008 as soon as possible.

The Say No to Sunnica action group has been fighting the proposals.

The plan has also been rejected by MPs Matt Hancock and Lucy Frazer, four councils – the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire county authorities and West Suffolk and East Cambridgeshire district councils – as well as all the parish councils representing the villages which would be affected by the solar development.

Suffolk County Council, which is recognised by the Government as a centre of excellence when it comes to managing the impacts of big energy schemes, has previously outlined its concerns over the way large energy developers had treated communities.

Following the postponement, Mr Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, said: "This decision shouldn't have been delayed - it should have been rejected, and the huge worry for local residents finally put to rest.

"I am a strong supporter of solar energy. Many solar farm projects, when appropriately located and with community support, contribute positively to our energy landscape.

"However, the Sunnica development is in completely the wrong location. It will turn our beautiful Suffolk villages into industrial zones. Worse, the battery storage outside local villages is dangerous and no assurances have been given about how a catastrophic fire would be dealt with to protect people.

"Sunnica's current proposal is not only dangerous but it's undermining support for renewables, and it needs to go back to the drawing board.

"I have long argued that the Sunnica proposal should be rejected and I will continue to do so."