Three solar farms approved despite fears for mid-Norfolk landscape

Plans to erect three solar farms in the mid-Norfolk countryside have been approved despite concerns they would 'carve up and industrialise' the landscape.

Breckland Council planning officers had recommended that each of the applications, for Litcham, Hardingham and Narford, near Swaffham, be approved at yesterday's planning meeting.

Planning officers received 23 letters of objection to the 60,480-panel Hardingham scheme and three in support, and said it 'really can't be seen from the public realm'.

In an email, councillor Cliff Jordan said: '[My constituents] find it abhorrent that grade two, highly-productive arable land is going to lay dormant for 25 years when any scrub land or less valuable land could have been used.'

The application was approved by seven votes to four.

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Both Litcham and Tittleshall parish councils and the Campaign to Protect Rural England Norfolk objected to the Litcham application, which was for 47,040 photovoltaic panels on a 25.8h site currently used for grazing.

The non-reflective panels will reach 2.2m in height, but the site will also include a brick grid connection and metering cabin 4.5m tall.

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Litcham resident John Birkbeck said: 'In my view it would be criminal damage to desecrate [the countryside] in the manner proposed. The countryside is being eroded at an ever-increasing pace. There must be a better place than this.'

It was approved by six votes to three, while the Narford application was approved by nine votes to two.

Andrew Hodgson, agent for all three applications, said ease of connection to the national grid was of primary importance, making brown field sites such as former airfields problematic.

He said: 'If you look at a wind farm application the visual impact is significant. The benefit of the solar panels is they sit low in the countryside and when you see one of these it's from a distance .

'They sit low and the visual impact is much less than you would get with a wind farm. We are confident that the visual impact would not be as big as people are saying.

'This scheme is fully compliant with national policy and your local policy in delivering renewable energy.'

He said construction would be finished by the bird breeding season.

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