Two solar farm proposals plan to ‘champion local economy’ in north-west Essex

Sheep grazing at an operational Lightsource Solar Farm. Sheep grazing at an operational Lightsource Solar Farm.

Friday, March 28, 2014
6:59 AM

Designs for two solar farms in north-west Essex have been revealed.

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Solar farm developer and operator Lightsource Renewable Energy is working on two projects, on land west of Hawkspur Green (south of Little Sampford) and land at Tye Green Farm (south of Elsenham).

And the company says the plans will generate more than just energy – as well as providing enough clean electricity for more than 4,700 homes, the solar farms will open opportunities for local businesses and conservation groups to participate.

Conor McGuigan, planning and development director at Lightsource Renewable Energy, said: “The way a solar farm is laid out means only a third of the land actually contains any infrastructure, so the majority of the fields would remain completely open and uncovered.

“This creates an abundance of green space which can be utilised for agriculture, planting, seeding and enhancing wildlife habitats – all of which needs to be carefully planned, implemented and looked after in the long term.

“There are many ways people can get involved, from the point of design through to construction, fencing, providing accommodation and installing and monitoring the wildlife habitats.”

Lightsource is currently seeking the following expertise/involvement in the schemes from the local area:

• Residents to provide local knowledge and input into the initial designs and planning

• Wildlife enthusiasts – solar farms provide excellent opportunities to enhance biodiversity and support local initiatives

• Security personnel

• Traffic management and civil roadways experts

• Accommodation & food and beverage providers

• Storage and logistics businesses

• Fencing experts

• Landscapers specialising in local/native species

Preliminary proposals for both solar farms are now available to view online on Lightsource’s web-based planning portal – lightsource-re.co.uk/planning – where residents are invited to provide input and help to shape the projects as they evolve.

Drop-in information evenings will also be held in venues close to the two sites:

Land west of Hawkspur Green (south of Little Sampford): April 3 at Town Hall, Dunmow Road, Great Bardfield, CM7 4SA

Land at Tye Green Farm (south of Elsenham): April 4 at Memorial Hall, Elsenham, CM22 6BY

Mr McGuigan said: “Both projects will accommodate sheep grazing to continue the land’s agricultural use. The panels will be raised on a framework which means grass can establish throughout the fields, including the area underneath the panels.

“The structures are by no means a permanent alteration to the landscape either – at the end of the solar farm’s working life, the framework will be pulled out and the land fully restored.

“Wide field margins between the solar farm and the outer hedgerows also leaves plenty of space for seeding wild flowers and installing habitat enhancements. Our planners work closely with ecologists and landscape consultants on tailoring these plans.

“Local input is also valuable to us and we are encouraging conservation groups and wildlife enthusiasts in the area to come forward with any suggestions.”

Tye Green Farm is well concealed by the topography of the area and established hedgerows along the boundaries, so the surrounding area has very few views of a potential solar farm.

The land west of Hawkspur Green has thick woodland to the north and is situated on a high plateau which means it is not visible from lower levels.

“We have chosen to progress with our proposals for these two sites because they are already naturally well screened,” explained Mr McGuigan.

“We will retain all existing trees and hedgerows around the sites and fill any gaps with native species as necessary to bolster the site boundaries. We will also take into account local preferences – such as the Village Design Statement devised by residents around Hawkspur Green and the neighbouring villages – and ensure that the way the land is managed is in keeping with the local area.”

He added: “Solar power is a dependable source of energy and farming it creates a great opportunity to establish a sustainable supply of electricity which is not affected by fluctuating oil and gas prices or foreign supplies. Generating energy locally also creates a great opportunity to prioritise local business and skills.

“It is still early days and we are several weeks away from our final proposals. We encourage anyone who would like to get involved to make contact with us and also come along to our community information evenings on April 3 and 4 to find out more, provide input or register with us as a local service provider.”

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