Solar farm at Scottow in ‘wrong place’ say campaigners

Campaigners fighting plans to create a solar farm on 70 acres of farmland near the former RAF Coltishall base have stressed they are in favour of the technology, but against the specific location.

At a meeting on Tuesday evening, people from Swanton Abbott, Scottow and Badersfield gathered to discuss an application for a 12.74MW scheme on farmland off Scottow Road, Scottow, made by Shaw Coltishall Solar Park Limited.

The land is opposite the old main entrance to the base when it was operational.

Residents have formed an action group which will begin lobbying against the plans, including writing to planning authority North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) outlining some key initial concerns.

But while they are campaigning against the individual application, member Steve Riley said a solar farm built on the old base itself would be welcome - in fact another campaign group he is involved in with a focus on the protection and development of the old base has petitioned for such a development.

'This plan is in the wrong place, on grade 2 farmland and it will be extremely invasive,' said Mr Riley.

'There will be tall fencing, closed circuit cameras and several small buildings, changing it from a rural Norfolk landscape to an industrial site.

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'Yet across the road there is a brownfield site which would be ideal for a solar farm.

'Let's be quite clear about this - we are for renewable energy, not against. But it needs to be in the right place.'

Mr Riley said the group's letter to NNDC would point out a lack of a pre-application consultation, which he said should have happened but didn't. They would also say that a sequential screening test would have helped identify other, alternative, more suitable sites.

Another resident, Jonathon Dempsey, said they were worried about the 'cumulative effect' of the plans, as early this year proposals for a biomass plant close by had been passed. He was also concerned about an increase in traffic on the road and possible effects to the local ecology.

The scheme is among a wave of solar farm applications submitted in the last few months, ahead of government proposals to reduce financial support for large-scale installations built after April 1, 2013 by 25pc.

NNDC is currently considering an application for a 5.7MW solar farm on 34 acres of arable land at Strawberry Lane at Saxthorpe, submitted by Saxthorpe Solar Farm. A campaign group, Saxthorpe and Corpusty Protection Group has vowed to fight the plans.

And Trafford Solar Park wants to install solar panels off Belaugh Road, Hoveton, claiming they would create enough electricity annually to power the equivalent of 2,600 homes.

The proposed development site is 300 metres north of the Broads Authority boundary.

The application is within the boundaries of both North Norfolk and Broadland district councils and will have to be approved by both planning authorities before it can be built. A campaign group has been formed.