A meeting of West Suffolk Cabinet has agreed there are very significant concerns over proposals for a solar farm planned to be built partly in the district and East Cambridgeshire.

Councillors agreed with the recommendations in the report that West Suffolk Council does not support the proposal as it stands. Cabinet also supported the recommendation is that development consent should not be granted for the plans as submitted.

The report which can be seen at Agenda for Cabinet on Tuesday 15 March 2022, 6.00 pm (westsuffolk.gov.uk) highlighted the range of concerns on what is proposed by the applicant Sunnica. Cabinet also heard the concerns of local councillors and communities.

These issues and concerns will now be raised with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy through the appointed Examining Authority. The Secretary of State will make the final decision on whether the scheme is given planning approval. West Suffolk Council with other affected authorities are being asked their views at the current pre-examination stage.

Sunnica Energy Farm is a scheme for the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) generating panels and on-site battery energy storage systems (BESS) across four sites within Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The proposal will also include the infrastructure associated with the required connection to the national grid, including an extension to the Burwell National Grid Substation.

West Suffolk Council has declared a climate emergency and owns a solar farm and so recognises the need for energy generated in a sustainable way.

However, the report highlights key areas of concern where outstanding questions have not been answered by the applicant to date during the process. It also emphasises where there is a requirement for additional mitigation and compensation to be forthcoming in order to address concerns.

Key concerns remain in relation to the likely environmental impacts, the quality of assessments of these impacts and the lack of mitigation in a number of topic areas, including landscape and visual amenity, ecology and nature conservation, transport and access and community impacts. In addition, concerns are being raised in connection with cultural heritage, noise and vibration, socio-economics and land use, battery first safety and impacts on the horse racing industry.

The Cabinet meeting, which was open to the public, was held at Mildenhall Hub, Mildenhall, near the proposed site and live streamed.