Plans for huge solar farm at Walpole St Andrew

A solar farm similar to the ones proposed in Steyning, Ashurst and Partridge Green
A solar farm similar to the ones proposed in Steyning, Ashurst and Partridge Green

Meetings have been held over a plan for a huge solar farm in West Norfolk amidst calls from MPs for countryside to be protected from them.

Elgin Energy wants to cover 69 hectares of farmland – an area equivalent to around 64 football pitches – in Walpole St Andrew with solar panels.

The firm says the solar farm would be capable of powering 7,000 homes per year.

The plan comes on top of proposals for solar farms from other firms at locations including Crimplesham, South Wootton, Denver and Thornham.

Gregory Barker, minister for energy and climate change, has called for solar farms to be focused on brown field sites and rooftops.

Elizabeth Truss, South West Norfolk MP, said: “I have been pressing the department for energy and climate change for action to be taken to ensure agricultural land is not lost to acres of solar panels.

“Not only do they jeopardise out food security but the large scale sites that have been proposed in my constituency impact considerably on local communities.”

Elgin Energy has submitted its proposal for land on the southern side of Mill Road to West Norfolk Council.

It faced the communities of West Walton and Walpole St Andrew with them prior to parish assemblies this week.

If approved, the site would take around four months to build, involving 484 large vehicle movements.

The firm has said the construction would be done in working hours and would access the site from the A47 via Lynn Road, West Drove North, Police Road, Wisbech Road and Walpole Bank/Mill Road to avoid nearby villages.

The site would include one major substation and 33 smaller ones, 38 CCTV posts and be surrounded by a 2.4 metre high security fence, shielded by hedges. During construction there would be 24-hour security.

Once construction is complete grass would be set with a commercial sheep flock grazing. The site would have a 25-year life-span after which it would be returned to farmland.

Six residents have lodged objections to the proposal, mainly on grounds that arable land will be lost and the visual impact.

One said: “I strongly object to the proposed planning application. This huge solar farm would use up valuable grade 2 farm land and in my opinion would be a blot on the landscape.”

In a document submitted with its plan, Elgin Energy said West Norfolk Council has indicated it would “likely support” the application.

The firm has said it will make a contribution to the community if the project goes ahead, understood to be a one-off payment of up to £90,000.