Work on massive solar farm the size of 100 football pitches around Parham airfield set to start after East Suffolk Council gives green light
Work on a new solar farm the size of more than 100 football pitches in the Suffolk countryside can begin after securing planning approval.
East Suffolk Council’s strategic planning committee gave the green light for plans by Low Carbon and AECOM to establish solar panels on six agricultural fields around Parham airfield.
The farm will produce 49.9megawatts of electricity – enough power for 16,581 homes, and save more than 11,000 tonnes of carbon per year.
The 74-hectare facility, which also includes 27 shipping containers to house inverters and transformers and two substation buildings, will be operational for 40 years and revert back to agricultural use at the end of its lifespan.
Planning permission, secured with just one vote against by today's committee, means work can begin on the establishing the panels – a job which is expected to take around 16 weeks.
As part of the application, new hedgerows, vegetation and wildflowers will be planted to help with screening for local residents and biodiversity, while livestock will also be able to graze.
James Hartley-Bond, Low Carbon’s head of project development, said: “We have worked hard to meet with any directly-affected residents to understand and work through any concerns they had.
“We are pleased there is a low number of affected residents here, and we have done what we can to minimise the impact on them.”
Mr Hartley-Bond referenced the current energy and climate emergency crises, and added: “This project aids in solving both of these issues – decarbonisation and energy security.
“We have brought a well-received project with officer and consultee support which can make a huge difference to these crises, and also help the council in its desire to become carbon neutral.”
The plans received just three public objections.
Ben Pearson, a nearby resident, was one of those to object because of its visual impact.
“We were devastated to learn of the new solar farm development,” he said. “No amount of screening will screen the view of development zone two.
“Three metre panels will sit square along the horizon line from left to right. They will form a military parade of industrial structures and regulated straight lines in what would have once been a rural field.”
Cllr Andree Gee, who voted against the plans, referenced other energy projects like Sizewell C and offshore wind farms, adding: “My fear is in this frantic dash for carbon zero we are overlooking the fact that much of our beautiful countryside is being completely destroyed and made visually unattractive.”
Cllr David Beavan had called for the height of the panels to be lowered from 3m to aid locals, but did not object to the plans, which were supported by the rest of the committee.
Cllr Stuart Bird said: “We have to welcome this. The whole world is speaking about climate change, we have got to move away from fossil fuel use and fossil fuel energy generation.
“To me, it’s absolutely necessary, it’s beneficial, it’s moving to where we need to be with non-fossil fuel energy generation – I am wholeheartedly and emphatically in support of this.”