Solar farm consultation has been ‘woeful’, say campaigners
- Credit: Archant
A proposal for the largest solar energy farm in the UK is now likely to have been submitted to the government – but campaigners have described the public consultation process as ‘woeful’.
The Sunnica Energy Farm scheme covers 2,700 acres and spreads across seven East Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk villages.
According to the timeline published on its website, the formal planning application is now with the government planning inspectorate and includes feedback from the scheme’s public consultation.
But campaigners from the ‘Say No To Sunnica Community Action Group’ have criticised the statutory consultation process which was held at the end of last year.
They say it needs to be repeated now Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are easing.
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Local resident Isabel Cross said: “Considering the scale of the project this consultation has been woeful.
“These are big complex issues - appealing to a Government scrambling to meet a green agenda – but where safety has not kept pace with scaling-up technology."
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She added: “People have struggled to engage under the strain of covid, local authorities have commented in the news about the inadequate provision of information from the developer too; the consultation needs to be re-run now that Covid-19 rules are relaxing.”
If given the go ahead, the scheme will provide 500MW through solar panels and batteries to power 100,000 homes.
The proposed facility spreads across Isleham, Kennett, Chippenham, Snailwell, Worlington, Freckenham and Red Lodge. Its planned cable route will connect to the National Grid at Burwell.
Campaigners also question the ‘green credentials’ of such schemes, particularly when it comes to producing the batteries and other components of the solar farms.
Other concerns include the increased traffic to build the facility, changes needed to the roads to accommodate vehicles in these rural areas and the impact on wildlife and biodiversity.
In December, MPs Lucy Frazer and Matt Hancock joined forces to oppose the solar farm which crosses both of their constituencies on the East Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk border.
Their formal response to the statutory consultation urged Sunnica Limited, the company behind the solar farm, “to listen to” concerns about the project’s scale, loss of countryside and its impact on biodiversity and wildlife.
Due to the scale of the development, the planning inspectorate will make the final decision on behalf of the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy.
Say No To Sunnica Community Action Group is crowdfunding to pay for experts to argue against the scheme. Visit its JustGiving page here.