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PICTURE: Ssshh: it’s huge, it’s powerful, it’s slap-bang beside North Norfolk’s largest town and it’s the district’s best-kept secret

PUBLISHED: 19:48 29 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:04 29 October 2011

The sun farm taking shape on the outskirts of North Walsham. It lies between the Bittern Line on the left, and the A149, right. Picture: MIKE PAGE

The sun farm taking shape on the outskirts of North Walsham. It lies between the Bittern Line on the left, and the A149, right. Picture: MIKE PAGE

© Mike Page all rights reserved. Before any use is made of this image including display, publication, broadcast, syndication or web, permission must be obtained in writing.

A birds-eye view of north Norfolk’s best-kept secret - a huge sun farm on the edge of the district’s largest town.

While plans to erect a single wind turbine a little further north, near Holt, are creating a storm of protest, this renewable-energy scheme, covering nearly 30 acres, has been approved and built over the summer in North Walsham, with hardly a whisper.

And it has been welcomed by a leading councillor who believes it could help bring much-needed employment to the town.

Aerial photographer Mike Page’s photo shows the triangular-shaped site at Carlton Farm, just south of the town, between the North Walsham to Norwich railway line and the A149 North Walsham to Stalham road.

Built by Norwich-based PV farms, it features 18,000 photovotaic (PV) panels tilted at 35 deg to the ground, arranged in six meter-long (19.6ft) rows, standing about three meters (9.8ft) high.

The panels, covered in non-reflective glass, convert the sun’s heat into electricity and have an estimated output of five mega-watts; enough to power about 1,500 homes.

The power generated is fed into the National Grid through the nearby North Walsham sub station and the life-span of the farm is estimated at 25 years.

Trevor Ivory, North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) cabinet member and a North Walsham resident, welcomed the development which he understands is the largest in the region.

Mr Ivory added: “It’s sustainable, renewable energy without any of the impacts of a wind turbine. One of the biggest issues for North Walsham in trying to attract new employers is the lack of an adequate electricity supply which limits the town’s growth. This has the potential to overcome some of those problems.”

Richard Atkins, of PV Farms, has been racing against the clock to complete the scheme following a government review of subsidy arrangements for solar-energy projects.

An official announcement is expected this Monday, October 31, but leaked documents suggest the government could slash incentives by half from December 8 for new schemes.

PV farms has a number of other Norfolk plans at different stages of progress, including projects at Salhouse, Snetterton and RAF Neatishead.

The Walsham solar farm, which actually falls within the parish of Worstead, was not discussed by NNDC’s planning committee members. No negative responses were received by the council during the consultation phase and it was approved by officers under delegated powers in May.

The site, partially visible from the railway, is hidden from traffic on the A149 and uses low-grade agricultural land.

Sheep may be brought in to keep the grass down between the rows of panels. The whole site is subject to 24-hour security measures.

In contrast, the application by Genatec to build a solitary, 84m-high wind turbine on land at Pond Farm, Bodham, has sharply divided the community.

Parties on both sides have taken their campaigns on-line with petitions, websites, pages on social media sites, and also bumper stickers.

The application has so far generated over 1,000 responses, including 163 in favour and 851 against.

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