Solar city on edge of Norwich leaves locals cold

EDF Renewables have lodges plans with South Norfolk Council for a 49.9 MW solar farm at Bloy’s Gro

A new solar farm could be built between Mulbarton and Swainsthorpe - Credit: Archant

Plans for a solar hub to power the city have been pushed back by locals. 

But a climate change expert has said communities need to expect more bids for renewable energy sites to land on their doorsteps. 

Asher Minns, executive director of the UK-wide Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has a base at the University of East Anglia, has spoken as a rural community is raising concerns over an application for a 200-acre solar farm between Mulbarton and Swainsthorpe.

The plans for Bloy's Grove Solar Farm to South Norfolk Council have been submitted by EDF Renewables and if approved it will be built on agricultural land south and north of Brick Kiln Lane.

Asher Minns, executive director of the UK-wide Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Asher Minns, executive director of the UK-wide Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research - Credit: University of East Anglia

It joins plans for two separate solar farms off nearby Marsh Lane and Mergate Lane in Bracon Ash.

And there is already an operational solar farm on Brick Kiln Lane, Swainsthorpe.

Nigel Legg, who represents Mulbarton on South Norfolk Council, and lives in the village, said: "People are getting the feeling there is a free-for-all in the local area and we are some sort of industrial wasteland. Individually these plans are good but it is cumulative effect of this."

He added he and all local folk understood the need for renewable energy. 

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Mr Minns, who lives in Norwich, said: "Renewable energy is essential for the UK's journey to sustainability and energy independence.

"Generating electricity locally means we keep costs down. We are going to see more renewable energy sites for that reason. We have to try everything to generate cleaner electricity in a climate emergency.

"We hope the planning process takes care that we have suitable locations."

He believed more smaller sites should also be developed.

Ann Chandler, chairwoman of Swainsthorpe Parish Council

Ann Chandler, chairwoman of Swainsthorpe Parish Council - Credit: Ann Chandler

Ann Chandler, chairwoman of Swainsthorpe Parish Council, said people in the village backed renewable energy but many were worried about the large lorries during the construction phase.

Darren Cuming, planning and consent manager for EDF Renewables, said: "We are in discussion with local residents regarding concerns they have about the potential impact of traffic to site during the construction period. While we can’t eliminate all construction impacts we do seek to reduce them and mitigate as best we can.

"We will continue to work closely with the council and local residents to agree a traffic management plan, we train all our employees and contractors of the importance of traffic safety, and we will ensure that there is an EDF Renewables point of contact on site during construction to address any issues.

"Locally, the community generally accepts that solar is part of the solution to combating climate change and achieving net zero, and they are pleased this project will save around 14,000 tonnes of local carbon dioxide emissions each year. If planning permission is granted, a community fund of £20,000 will be paid annually for the 35-year lifetime of the project, double the sum proposed during the consultation period. 

"We want to develop this project sensitively and in partnership with the local community, which is why we have incorporated plans to improve local biodiversity - planting trees, hedges, wildflower and grass meadow, as well as an orchard - and reduced the number of panel rows following excellent feedback from our extended consultation period and environmental impact assessment."

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