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

Campaigners who have fought proposals for a massive solar farm on their doorsteps will know today whether their opposition has been successful.

Claire Coutinho, the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, is due to announce whether Sunnica Ltd will 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

Catherine Judkins, chairman of the Say No to Sunnica action group, said it was a momentous day for residents across the area.

“We have had this hanging over us since 2018 and it has been exhausting,” said Dr Judkins.

“It has been the most awful worry for everyone and we are on tenterhooks waiting for the decision.

“The opposition has been unanimous and for four-and-a-half years we have been fighting Sunnica and challenging almost everything they have said because it has been misleading, inaccurate, or untrue.

“We will have to read the minister’s decision carefully because, although complete rejection is what we are hoping for, the plan could be approved in a lesser form or in its entirety. Whatever the decision, it is likely there will be an appeal and this fight may not be over for years,” she said.

The proposal has also been rejected by local 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.

In July this year, the council’s deputy leader, Richard Rout, wrote to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, outlining what he called the significant shortfalls of the Sunnica application, which he described as the worst example of what could go wrong when developers mistreated communities.