New solar farm could be built near Marriott's Way

Solar panels

Almost 90 acres of farmland could be given over to solar panels in Broadland - Credit: PA

An 87-acre solar farm could be built close to the Marriott's Way, despite concerns it will lead to the loss of agricultural land.

Proposals for the scheme - which would see solar panels cover an area of farmland roughly equivalent to 49 football pitches - are to be heard by Broadland District Council this week.

If it goes ahead, the solar farm will be built on two sites just 660 meters from the Marriott's Way, north of The Street, in Cawston.

It is the second time that the project has been proposed. A previous application, in 2020, was rejected because the development was considered to be on high-quality farmland and the loss of food-producing land was judged not to outweigh the renewable energy generation benefits.

Another 40-acre solar farm, 130 meters north on the former RAF Oulton, is part way through development.

A planning statement prepared on behalf of the developer, Docking Farm Solar Ltd, said the site layout has been reconfigured to minimise the loss of the best and most versatile agricultural land, which is known as BMV.

Broadland's planning officers have recommended approving the latest plans, despite a series of concerns raised in the consultation, including from Oulton and Cawston parish councils, a neighbour and a countryside charity.

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Oulton Parish Council said: "Although this application tries to imply otherwise, there will still be the significant loss of BMV, grades 2 and 3a, on an increased site layout.

"The loss of good agricultural land for 40 years is short-sighted when the UK is experiencing problems with the importation of food and worldwide disruption from Brexit and Covid-related supply-line shortfalls."

The site that could be given over to solar panels

The site that could be given over to solar panels - Credit: Google Street View

A neighbour at the next door Blue Stone cottage also objected to the plans, saying: "I have lived here for over 45 years and this will cause me unnecessary stress and worry. I believe it will devalue my property substantially and cause a big impact on the surrounding wildlife."

The Norfolk branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England also objected saying the scheme was not following the local plan, could cause traffic issues and may have an impact on the character of the countryside.

Recommending the plan for approval, Broadland planning officer Julie Fox said the project would help meet carbon emission reduction targets and tackle climate change.

She said: "The proposals have been prepared to seek to address the concerns of the Council expressed in the previous refusal."

Ms Fox added the plans have been designed in a sensitive manner that respects the location and surrounding character. 

The plans will be heard on Wednesday by Broadlands' planning committee.