Campaigners call for 2,800-acre solar farm consultation near Newmarket to be re-run now coronavirus restrictions are easing
Campaigners against a huge 2,800-acre solar farm set to be built just outside Newmarket have demanded the developers re-run the consultation.
Isabel Cross, a local resident fighting against the power plant planned by solar firm Sunnica, blasted the original consultation and called for another to be run.
“Considering the scale of the project this consultation has been woeful,” said the member of the Say No To Sunnica group.
“People have struggled to engage under the strain of Covid, and local authorities have commented about the inadequate provision of information from the developer, too,” she said.
“The consultation needs to be re-run now that Covid-19 rules are relaxing.”
The Sunnica solar facility, which will cover thousands of acres of countryside if built, will cross both East Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk, and stretch from a substation in Burwell to Snailwell, Newmarket, Freckenham, Worlington and Isleham.
There will be five separate sites, each connected by underground electricity cables.
Because of the size of the scheme, generating 500 megawatts of electricity in ideal weather conditions, it is set to bypass the normal planning process and will be considered by the government and not locally elected councillors.
Sunnica is expected to submit its proposals to the Planning Inspectorate within the coming weeks, who will then consider granting a development consent order with a decision expected by Summer next year.
It will be then signed off by Kwasi Kwarteng, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
According to Sunnica’s original consultation document posted to every home in the immediate area around the proposed development, building work could begin as soon as Autumn 2021.
Under the proposals it would then operate for the next 40 years on its various sites, before being decommissioned.
A Sunnica spokesman told Suffolk News: “We consulted on our proposals for Sunnica Energy Farm between 22 September and 18 December 2020. We consulted widely using a number of channels and were pleased with the volume of feedback that we received.
"We are continuing to develop our proposals while having regard to the consultation feedback ahead of submitting our Development Consent Order (DCO) application to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
"Once Sunnica Energy Farm reaches the end of its operating life, it would be decommissioned in accordance with a decommissioning plan that will need to be approved as part of the DCO. This would involve, for example, removing the infrastructure on site and returning the land to its previous condition. This means that farmland will not be permanently lost as a result of our proposals.
"Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) provide an important service to the national electricity grid and complement renewable technologies by storing energy at times of low demand and by releasing energy when the grid needs it."