Concern over solar farm application

A parish councillor is 'appalled' after an application for a large solar farm will not be scrutinised by Broadland Council members.

The proposal for 36,000 solar panels to be built in a field at Woodforde Farm, Weston Longville, has been submitted by British renewable energy company Esconrg. The full size of the development, including converter buildings, would be 19 hectares.

It will not be debated in public by the planning committee because the ward member has not called it, according to a Broadland spokesman.

But Richard Hawker, a Hockering parish councillor who lives 750 metres from the site, said: 'As far as I'm concerned I will be able to see that field. It is going to be dotted with black panels and I don't relish that.

'I'm appalled that something as big as this isn't being put through public scrutiny, which is the reason for local democracy.'

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The application was submitted to Broadland on September 17, and Weston Longville Parish Council, Hockering Parish Council and Breckland Council were informed. The public consultation period was extended to October 26.

An exhibition of the plans was held at the Parson Woodforde pub at Weston Longville a month ago, according to Mr Hawker.

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A spokesman for Broadland said a consultation exercise among local residents had resulted in 65 letters of support for the scheme and 14 letters of objection. The NFU and the RSPB have also expressed support for the scheme.

'Planning officers are working with the applicant and neighbouring residents affected by the proposal to make sure sufficient landscaping is in place to screen the site from view and minimise the impact of the proposed development on the wider landscape,' the spokesman said.

'The application has not been called in to planning committee by the local ward member and there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development which means that under those circumstances there is no need for the matter to go to committee and the application can be determined under delegated powers by the head of planning.'

If approved, the solar panels would cover an area of nine hectares across 60 rows, off Rectory Road, Weston Longville. Energy from the panels would then go into the national grid.

The application site is surrounded by open countryside, is next to two farms - Loke Farm and Grade II listed Willows Farm - and the Bernard Matthews turkey farm.

It is estimated that the construction period would start next year and last for three months. The unmanned solar farm would be operational for 25 years.

It is not known when the head of planning will make a decision.

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