Villagers gearing up to fight 1700 acre Sunnica solar farm close to Newmarket
Opposition to plans for a huge solar farm close to Newmarket is being mobilised by a group set up to co-ordinate action across the villages which would be affected by it.
The Sunnica Energy Farm, which would be the biggest in the country, would be located at three sites, the largest covering around 1,700 acres close to Worlington and Freckenham, which would be linked to smaller sites near Chippenham and Snailwell and to the National Grid substation at Burwell.
But opponents have warned that the scale of the project could lead to its downfall and devastating consequences for the area.
“It is Sunnica’s job to get the scheme through with planning permission and then sell it on to investors, pension funds and the like,” said Steve Wilson, one of the organisers of the Say No To Sunnica group.
He said that technology in the field of renewable energy was changing so fast that in the future the scheme could cease to be financially viable and the investors could walk away leaving the whole area covered with obsolete panels.
“This is a devastatingly big scheme and if it goes wrong it would go wrong spectacularly and we would be leaving a mess for the next generation,” added Mr Wilson.
Arguments against the scheme impressed landowner Richard Tuke, part of whose Freckenham Estate had been earmarked by Sunnica for their plans.
Following a public meeting in the village, at which residents voiced their opposition to the solar farm because of the its size and its proximity to their homes, Mr Tuke issued a statement announcing that he was withdrawing his land from the Sunnica scheme.
He said: “To those that spoke to me in a courteous and reasoned manner reminding me of how we can be a force for good, making the point that this scheme is too large, too close to the village and the impact it will have on your personal lives, thank you.
“It is you that has acted as the force for good reminding us that we can make a difference and I very much hope we will.
“We have listened and acted, today informing Sunnica that we will not permit them to use our land in any respect for this scheme.”
Brian Harvey, West Suffolk district councillor for Manor Ward, which includes Worlington and Freckenhham, welcomed Mr Tuke’s statement which he described as ‘heartwarming’.
But he added a warning that because the solar farm would be designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, if the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy gave it the green light, the land could be subject to a compulsory purchase order.
“None of us is opposed to solar energy. It is the sheer scale and density of this proposal on people’s doorsteps which is what we are against,” said Cllr Harvey.
Sunnica were contacted by the Journal for a comment. Their spokesman said: “We’re very grateful for the opportunity to respond but on this occasion won’t be offering a comment.”