Residents hit back after solar farm granted approval

PUBLISHED: 08:23 20 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:23 20 February 2020

Uttlesford District Council. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Uttlesford District Council. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

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Residents in Thaxted have strongly condemned the decision by Uttlesford District Council to approve development of a solar farm on 130 acres of agricultural land near the popular Turpin’s Trail.

Turpin’s Trail, which will become part of an industrial landscape. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.Turpin’s Trail, which will become part of an industrial landscape. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Campaigners against the project have called it "an act of vandalism on a historic landscape".

The solar farm, which was approved by members of the planning committee at a meeting on January 15, will be located to the south of the B1051 at Terriers Farm in Boyton End, Thaxted.

It will adjoin an existing solar farm at Spriggs Farm, which already covers some 70 acres of land. With both developments combined, more than 200 acres of Thaxted farmland will be covered by solar farms.

Over 120,000 solar panels will be installed on the Grade 2 land, which is classified as the "best and most versatile agricultural land". Developers believe that at its peak the farm will generate 44MW of electricity, powering approximately 13,100 homes.

However, a group of concerned Thaxted residents believe that, while renewable energy should be supported, the adverse effects of the proposed solar farm on the local landscape far outweigh the benefits that it creates.

One resident, who does not wish to be named, said of the decision: "Members of the committee were just not prepared to listen to the local conservation and environmental arguments.

"Their decision was based upon an officer's recommendation which omitted or glossed over so much of the 'inconvenient' evidence against the scheme. Clearly, the majority of our councillors have no respect for our outstanding local landscape."

Another resident added: "While there are acres of warehouse roofs in the Lea Valley with no solar panels but perfectly placed to house them, why do residents of Thaxted have to put up with an abomination like this?

"In their excitement to push this through at all costs, councillors and officers have completely overlooked the fact that no examination has been undertaken of alternative options."

The decision to approve the solar farm was proposed by Councillor Anthony Gerard, and seconded by Cllr Mark Lemon. The approval was reached with a majority verdict of 10-2 in favour.

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