Decision day for proposed solar farm at West Raynham airfield

Solar farm. Chris Ison/PA Wire Solar farm. Chris Ison/PA Wire

Thursday, December 19, 2013
6:00 AM

A scheme to build possibly the largest solar farm in England on a former military airfield near Fakenham could be approved today.

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Planners have recommended that North Norfolk District Council’s (NNDC) development committee should approve Good Energy’s proposals to build a 49.9MW solar farm, covering about 225 acres of the former airfield at West Raynham.

At the same time, £25,000 of funding towards preserving “nationally important” heritage assets at the site is expected to be authorised.

Senior planning officer Geoff Lyon’s report to councillors recommends approving the plans, and claims the proposals, which include the installation of 199,600 solar panels, would generate enough electricity for the needs of 10,212 homes each year.

The report says: “This would make the proposal one of (if not) the largest solar farms in the country and would make a significant contribution towards meeting national renewable targets, to which significant weight can be attached.”

Weasenham St Peter Parish Council has registered its support for the plans, while Raynham Parish Council and Helhoughton Parish Council have no objections.

There are, however, concerns about the impact the solar farm could have on key heritage assets on the airfield, which include a Grade II listed control tower and Bloodhound MK II missile launching pads.

A response from Norfolk County Council’s historic environment service says: “West Raynham was retained beyond the second world war and its significance lies largely in its Cold War heritage.

“West Raynham was home to the Central Fighter Establishment, went on to become one of the primary Bloodhound sites in the country, was a Rapier training site and was a Royal Observer Corps training centre.

“Each of these factors alone raises the significance of the airfield above local significance, and its central role in the Bloodhound system renders the airfield as a whole of national importance.”

English Heritage also highlighted the potential impact on the Bloodhound missile site, the historic church of Weasenhall and Helhoughton conservation area, and concerns have been raised about traffic during the 12-month construction period.

Mr Lyon’s report concludes: “Whilst the solar farm would, amongst other things, have some adverse visual impacts on the surrounding landscape, some adverse impacts on the Grade II listed very heavy bomber control tower and some adverse highway impacts during the construction phase it is considered that these impacts are or can be made acceptable through the imposition of appropriate conditions.”

The report recommends that councillors should secure at least £25,000 for the repair of the control tower and landscape and biodiversity mitigation.

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