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'No alternative' to Walpole St Andrew solar farm proposal, developer insists

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Developers behind plans for a large solar farm on West Norfolk's border have claimed there was no other suitable location for the scheme.

Appeal documents relating to borough councillors' rejection of the proposed installation near Walpole St Andrew have now been published.

And the company behind the plan, Walpole Marsh Limited, has maintained there are a range of advantages from it.

A government inspector will decide whether plans for a new solar farm on the edge of West Norfolk should go ahead.
A government inspector will decide whether plans for a new solar farm on the edge of West Norfolk should go ahead.

Its statement of case said: "The public benefits associated with the Proposed Development are very substantial and would make a significant contribution to meeting the environmental, economic and social aims of achieving sustainable development."

Proposals to site thousands of panels, plus a battery storage facility, across nearly 80 hectares of land were thrown out by borough councillors in February.

They argued that the benefits of generating renewable energy did not outweigh the loss of grade one agricultural land for food production.

But the appeal claims: "The use of agricultural land to accommodate the solar farm is necessary".

"There is no lower quality (non-best and most versatile) agricultural land at which the proposed development could be located."

The developer also maintained the land would still be used for sheep grazing if the plan went ahead and pledged to accept any condition to that effect.

The appeal added: "The removal of the appeal site from intensive agricultural practices for a period of 35 years would have the effect of regenerating the soil and becoming more productive in the long-term following its return to ‘full’ agricultural use."

The developers have previously argued that the installation could provide enough power for more than 10,000 average homes and would make a vital contribution towards reducing carbon emissions.

But parish councillors in Walpole claimed there would be "no benefit" to the community from the scheme, while the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England's Norfolk branch argued the loss of land was unnecessary.

The South Holland MP, Sir John Hayes, also voiced objections.

The case is likely to be dealt through written submissions, without the need for a public inquiry.

The appeal documents indicate that, although an appeal was also lodged against South Holland District Council for non-determination of the application, the matters in dispute relate solely to West Norfolk Council's decision.

Around two-thirds of the application site lies within West Norfolk.

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