Plans to erect a field of solar panels at Butlers Farm, Ashdon (UTT/14/2755/FUL) is in Public Consultation until Thursday 23rd October 2014. There is information below to help you understand the application and respond to UDC’s request for comments.
Renewable energy is good
WeAreResidents.org is supportive of solar energy, as is the government – national planning policies favour renewable energy production. Traditional non-renewable sources of fuel are running out and energy security is as important and food security. Decisions in favour of solar panels are dependent on the location, site drainage, the impact on recreational use and the landscape.
On a macro scale, generally a solar farm can be beneficial to wildlife as the land isn’t ploughed or worked under the panels. Permissions are usually with the advisory to plant a local mix of native wildflowers and are in support of sheep grazing between the panel rows. Evidence suggests that the population of bees can actually be promoted due to the lack of field disturbance – a critical current issue for farmers and those concerned about the ecosystem.
But a solar farm can make a rural idyll seem somewhat industrial if it is in the wrong place.
Is it in the wrong place?
We understand that farmers are feeling the squeeze and so are turning to new sources of income for the land they own, but we accept that there are some residents of Uttlesford who may think that this proposal is in the wrong place. It is in a visible location, and it is on a popular walking and riding route, therefore recreational countryside users will notice an obvious change.
A decision based upon the evidence
Here are some of the key facts you should know when making your decision:
- The application is for a 19 acre (7.6ha) solar farm on workable agricultural land between Saffron Walden and Ashdon. The application suggests that 1/3 of the total space will be made up of panels with the remainder comprising channels wide enough to allow grazing.
- Details of the planning application are on the UDC website: UTT/14/2755/FUL
- A previous application for a solar site in a nearby field was refused by UDC in early 2014: UTT/13/2889/FUL
- It would be next to Butlers Farm and two footpaths – the Harcamlow Way (which is a protected national trail) and a bridleway that runs from the end of Butlers Lane to Cloptons Farm. These paths are part of a popular circuit for walkers, dog walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders.
- The panels would cover about 1/3 of the land. As well as the panels there would be supporting infrastructure, including inverters, transformers and a switch house and 2 metre wire security fences (theses could be removed if the land reverts back to agricultural).
- As well as adjoining two very well-used footpaths in one of the most scenic areas of countryside within walking distance of Saffron Walden, this area is open, undulating countryside, and the proposed field is clearly visible from many vantage points in the area.
- Local Plan Policy ENV15 – Renewable Energy – states that ‘small scale renewable energy development schemes to meet local needs will be permitted if they do not adversely affect the character of sensitive landscapes, nature conservation interests or residential and recreational amenity.’ This one does create an effect on the recreational amenity of the area for regular walkers and riders.
- Natural England are not in opposition to the application, and give careful guidance on how the development could be of benefit to a diverse range of species including bees (essential for crop pollination).
Ways to comment on the planning application
- Best (for Support of Opposition): Send your own email: Write your own response in support or opposition of the development. You should email your response to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can write them a letter to UDC Planning, Uttlesford District Council, London Road, Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 4ER.
- Easiest (for Opposition): Send a standard opposition response: The easiest and simplest way to oppose the planning application is to click here to send a standard objection email to UDC. Remember to fill in your name and address before you click send. Note: the button/link above may not work if you use webmail. If this is the case then please use the content in this text file inserting your own name and address.
- Post a comment directly on the UDC website, on the UTT/14/2755/FUL planning application page (registration required to comment).