Bridgham village is over 1000 years old.
Updated 12th July 2019Bridgham village came together for over two years, to fight a plan for a massive solar plant right next to this ancient village.
It would have meant good arable land ceasing to grow food and instead growing subsidies. (see below)
Fortunately seven out of ten district councillors agreed with the village and rejected the plan.
We care deeply about the environment and support the growth of re-newable energy.
Britain is in the ideal position to use tidal energy - seabed turbines - totally predictable, dependable energy every day, regardless of whether the wind blows or the sun shines. (see below)
Wind and solar also have their place, but solar should be on the roofs of houses, hospitals, factories, supermarkets etc. Located where it is needed as the losses of transporting that energy are great. (see below)
This page tells the story of how a (now dissolved) company from Reading Berkshire were defeated by a small Norfolk villge.
If you are fighting a similar plan this page will almost certainly help you.
It will show how doing your research and building your case can be effective.
The battle comences at the bottom of this page and concludes at the top.
The solar plant would have been the size of 87 football pitches.
Covering nearly 170 acres with glass and plastic.
This would be on productive farmland in beautiful Breckland countryside for at least 25 years.
The story of the failed plan for Bridgham solar plant.
This page has a lot of information, maps and photos detailing why the huge solar plant
would have been totally inappropriate - please read on to
get the whole picture....
...and how the company behind it -'Rethink Energy'- is
connected to the FRACKING
With artists impressions (Rethink's and ours) of how it would look.
Quote by Peter Grogan of Rethink Energy Ltd...
because the local people don’t want it,
decision notice has finally been published. In our view it demonstrates
a quite extraordinary misapplication of planning policy."
“We have every confidence the application will succeed on appeal.”
Diss Express March 2015
There has been no appeal.
This is a further embarrassment for Peter
Peter Grogan is a project management lawyer.
On 20th January 2015
after Bridgham solar farm was refused)
the same time Peter Grogan set up Rethink Energy Ltd., he and Joel
Tomlinson also set up
Sutcliffe who works for 'Hardhat' has tried to deal with public
relations for Rethink Energy Ltd.
lobbied the Department of Energy and Climate Change to garner
support for FRACKING.
ITV Anglia News
firm behind an £8 million solar farm near Newmarket
company says around two thirds
of the energy created by
(the losses are incurred when it is put through inverters and then transmitted to the grid)
at this time of year it is producing electricity only 12% of the time.
Dobson, from Switch2Renewable, says that means it's not producing enough
said solar should be on rooftops where the energy can be used 'on site'.
ITV Anglia News - 3 - 4 March 2015
(click link below)
The Red Lodge site in
Newmarket. Credit: ITV News Anglia
The above shows how close Red Lodge is to Bridgham.
does not work in Red Lodge it will not work in Bridgham.
If a solar 'farm' is a 'waste of money' in Red Lodge
Then a solar 'farm' would be a 'waste of money' in Bridgham.
Solar 'farms' in this part of the UK are no use to the national grid
when we most need electricity.
concern for Bridgham was the proposed huge industrial
On January 19th 2015, the 'Magnificent Seven' Councillors refused the planning application.
The vote was seven against, three in favour.
On behalf of the great majority of Bridgham
residents we would like to thank those seven councillors who,
Considering what is going on elsewhere we are
lucky to have seven councillors who have a sensible long term attitude,
A statement from Breckland Council read:
“Members of the Breckland Council Planning
Committee refused the application as they considered the proposed
(Diss Express - 8th March 2015)
The full text of the reasons can be found on the Council's Planning Application Search website http://www.breckland.gov.uk/content/planning-application-search under application reference 3PL/2014/0589/F.
The following is a summary of the reasons given.
At the planning meeting on 19th January 2015...
Councillor Chapman-Allen challenged some of the information provided by the applicant which conflicted with information on the DEFRA website.
Mr Grogan (of Rethink) clarified that the
figures came from the landowner and his advisor.
He apologised if they were incorrect.
(Pete Grogan is a project management lawyer)
Mr. Grogan further pointed out the key benefits which included:
..... rich and varied habitat for skylarks, etc.
Mr. Grogan seems to know more about these species than both the RSPB and BTO.
What follows is the story of the long road to this outcome.
It gives some idea of the relentless and unreasonable stress imposed on the residents of this beautiful part of Norfolk
by a company in Berkshire - Rethink Energy Ltd.
How is "Rethink Energy Ltd." who claim to be 'green' connected to
There is a ‘supporting document’ on BDC site dated 10-06-14
‘Statement of Community Involvement’
was 'positive' and
Refusal – the only sensible outcome
The latest revised application shows an unspecified number of
panels are now to be mounted
(This is to avoid doing an archaeological survey.)
Is it a third? half? or all? This is a major change to the plan and could mean a huge increase in HGV's to the site.
This can also affect water 'run off', wildlife, damage to soil etc.
The calculations regarding these
issues in the application are now invalid.
How can a decision be made on such a vague planning application?
Granting planning permission under these circumstances would be undemocratic and outrageous.
means that a large area of Breckland would not only be covered in glass
and plastic, but also in concrete!
Jemima Dean (who works for Capita who run the planning dept.) said -
"no amount of screening would make
the plan acceptable."
But now Jemima Dean recommends approval.
Apart from a small reduction in number of panels and a lot more hedgerow planting it was the same plan in the same place.
The vast majority of local residents and parish councils are against this.
the Environment Secretary, tells The Telegraph that solar farms are
putting Britain's "beautiful" rural landscape at risk.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has stated...
So why does he not stop this dreadful application? He has the power to do so.
deferral was on a point of
planning law, in particular Regulation 16(5) of the EIA regulations and
is a very serious matter.
must be a great source of embarrassment to Peter Grogan
It must be even more of an embarrassment to their agents - Savills.
This will delay construction to beyond bird nesting season (Construction is only allowed between October and February).
Therefore work on the site would not be allowed to begin before October 2015.
is little sun at that time of year,
generation would be a trickle,
it would be April or May 2016 before it produced much electricity.
Anyone thinking of investing in this project must be mad.
Qualquer um pensando em investir neste projeto deve estar louco.
'Rethink' are claiming this project is backed by
have told us they do NOT give 'blanket
blessing' to solar 'farms'.
At the planning
meeting on 19th January 2015
(when the application was refused)
Pete Grogan of Rethink pointed out the key benefits which included:
..... rich and varied habitat for skylarks, etc.
'Rethink' claim this project is backed by the RSPB.
Rethink claim Skylarks "will nest between the panels"
“The avoidance of
vertical structures by skylarks is so well known that
I would have to search a
Likewise, stone curlews are well-known as open-country birds.
So I am not familiar
with any specific research into birds on solar farms, but I am sure
(Skylarks and Stone Curlews threatened - see below)
But Rethink’s environmentalist Dr Iain Barr has refused to answer our question -
‘Given that stone curlews already nest on the site, will building a solar farm result in more or less stone curlews’?
Rethink’s environmentalist Dr Iain Barr has refused to comment on the use of the land after 25 years.
Meaning it could be classified as 'brownfield'. This could mean anything could be built on it, from housing
a chemical factory, negating any claimed
benefits of 25 years under glass, plastic and concrete.
What further evidence do BDC require to show this industrial development will severely reduce the habitat of these endangered species?
This is a further
example of either slipshod work, or deliberate distortion of the facts.
The Green Party
"Although the Green
broadly favours solar energy generation, given the relatively low
efficiency of generation at UK latitudes, solar collectors should only
be located where the space can't be used for anything else.
Worcester News -
By Farmers Wright of Brettenham and Rethink Energy of Reading Berkshire.
majority of local residents are opposed.
(It is Immediately adjacent to Bridgham village - see maps below)
'Rethink' website is awash with warnings of climate change through burning fossil fuels.
"REthink Energy is an independent renewable energy company, dedicated to assisting Britain in the fight against climate change through the development of considered, appropriate renewable energy projects around the country."
"WE HAVE THE ENVIRONMENT AT HEART"
Yet 'Rethink' brought PR man
Guildford Conservative Councillor and
has lobbied the Department of Energy and Climate Change
to garner political support for FRACKING.
lobbyist is Guildford District Councillor
In his register of interest
Sutcliffe says he's a
'freelance PR consultant'.
(see photos below)
If 'Rethink' were 'environmentally concerned' they would have nothing to do with this man.
The authors of the Rethink's 'Sequential Analysis Study' concluded from a purely desk exercise that no alternative sites were available.
That conclusion is unsatisfactory as no attempt appears to have been made to identify by inspection any brownfield sites either within or beyond the selected study area.
Potential, more suitable, brownfield and lower grade agricultural sites closer to grid connection, which our own more competent analysis has shown to exist, (a fact which has been fully disclosed in a letter to Breckland District Council) have not been considered.
This is a further example of either slipshod work, or deliberate
distortion of the facts.
('Sequential Analysis Study' is required by The national Planning Practice Guidance (PPG): Renewable and Low Carbon Energy.)
Quote by Peter Grogan of Rethink Energy Ltd...
because the local people don’t want it,
But 'Rethink' website says...
"ReThink always endeavour to adapt and update our project plans following public consultations to ensure we’re not missing anything vital to the local community and that the local community is happy. Whether we need to change our site location, adjust some of the layout, or ensure that we’ve tailored the construction plan to suit local priorities, ReThink will always try to help."
'Rethink' website also says...
"During our initial public consultation local people raised a number of points and some questions.
In order to fully address these matters, the application was withdrawn and we have spent the last four months looking closely at the issues raised to ensure we can fully address the points made."
Their plans are hardly changed apart from more blocking of our views.
But they have not addressed the main point that most residents made....
"It will ruin our beautiful countryside and we don't want it!"
You can add your
objection by using the link below.
Or by email to email@example.com
Or you can object in
writing to BDC Planning Dept. Elizabeth House, NR19 1EE
Quote - Planning Application -
certain parts of the world Solar Pv works well.
We cannot store any of the electricity produced by these plants.
When do we need electricity the most?
Could it be when it is cold and dark?
Solar should contribute to the 'renewables mix' but on rooftops and brownfield sites, not agricultural land that we need for food.
has strong sunlight, with an average irradiation rate that’s almost
double that of Germany, the world leader in solar installed capacity,
according to the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
UK tides ... stronger tides are yellow and red. Image: DTI
is an immense potential resource of clean energy from the tidal flows
around the UK:
Sutcliffe knew they would show that it had been a Public Relations disaster For 'Hardhat' and Rethink.
The reporter did not give in to Sutcliffe.
Rethink have tried
to manipulate the media to mislead
village hall, 6th March 2014.
This is Nick
Sutcliffe of 'Hardhat' who specialise in - 'Managing political, media and
Other websites have taken an interest in the
activities of Conservative councillor Nick Sutcliffe.
of Energy and Climate Change to garner political support for FRACKING.
Sutcliffe is also a councillor who serves on the planning committee at Guildford
Nick Sutcliffe page on 'Hardhat' website says....
Nick has a 15 year
track record of success advising development clients on the process of
securing planning consents.
large strategic land allocations and on-shore oil and shale gas exploration.
a public affairs specialist, Nick also provides Westminster government
relations advice, specialising in
energy and environmental issues.
as well having been the Cabinet Member for planning policy and a Committee Chairman for six years.
If Rethink were really concerned about the environment would they hire this man?
"It's my party
and I'll cry if I want to"
Nick Sutcliffe again.
It can be a lonely business trying to sell something no-one wants.
Rethink obviously thought that fronting the meeting with Nick Sutcliffe,
who helps the fracking industry get their way, would help.
"Effective crisis management requires experience, good judgement and a real understanding of the political, media and community context."
Nick Sutcliffe style (below).
You can see from the photos what Bridgham residents thought of him.
(And this was before we knew he was a PR man for the FRACKING industry)
Below is from a link on 'Rethink' website 16th October 2014.
"UK to allow fracking companies to
use 'any substance' under homes.
We wonder who could have lobbied for that?
'Hardhat' website says...
"HardHat’s reputation was established
through delivering success in planning.
All the clean green electricity produced is used locally. Local residents’ will be getting clean, green energy that they can use with pride.
We would like to know how this is possible as it would feed into the national grid ten miles away.
They are backed by 'Friends of the Earth' and 'Greenpeace'.
consulted both organisations they have stated that they do not
"REthink Energy always works closely with bodies like Natural England to ensure wildlife is protected and in the past we have taken a wide range of measures to ensure this."
"The key to ReThink Energy’s success is that we always work in consultation with local people and act sensitively to the needs of local residents, land owners and parish councils."
"ReThink Energy is adamant that our solar farms always play an
essential role in resting the land,..."
(Rethink Energy Limited was incorporated on 1st June 2012)
We can find nothing whatsoever that 'Rethink'
has done prior to this project.
So - Question to 'Rethink' -
As you claim that 'Rethink' have built solar farms before.
"At ReThink Energy, we prefer, wherever possible, to provide
a dual use for the solar farm. We often underplant with..."
"We always work in consulation with local people....etc."
Perhaps you can tell us, and Breckland District Council,
What else 'Rethink Energy' has done and how the project turned out?
Where are the other 'Rethink' solar farms?
We await your response.
Further question to 'Rethink' -
On your website you state you have three other projects -
Listed as "A SELECTION OF OUR PROJECTS"
"Merthyr Two solar project
White Horse solar project
Blackberry Farm solar project"
We can find no 'Rethink' connection to any projects with these names.
Perhaps you could explain why you claim this?
You appear to be a one project company.
Again - we await your response.
Founder of REthink Energy, Pete Grogan, said:
was a pleasure to meet so
many local residents and to have an opportunity to better understand
their views which we will take into account.
Diss Express 13th March 2014
*The Photos tell a different story.
Does this look like a 'well received' project? (Nick Sutcliffe again)
asked us what we thought. They just told us what they think they are
going to put up,” he said.
Diss Express 13th March 2014
These were the people (below) who descended on Bridgham
the solar 'farm' on 6th March 2014.
Their evening did not go well.Letter from Bridgham Village Committee (established to fight the Solar Farm Project) 1st March 2014
They appeared to be the only people present (other than farmers Wright) who were in favour of the development.
Their drive back to London and Berkshire was not a happy one.
Members of 'Rethink' team told us the solar farm could be owned by pension funds, private companies etc.
This industrial development could be sold to anyone - Chinese, Russian, European, Brazilian - who knows?
How much would the owners care for Bridgham and the Brecklands?
'Rethink' are in Berkshire, and they don't care.
Look at the dates.
Is this 'spot the difference'?
How is this possible? How stupid do they think we are?
Ours have titles. This one
is 'Goodbye Skylark'
Ours have titles. This one is ''Sea of glass and plastic"
Rethink claim Stone Curlews and Skylarks will be encouraged to nest on the site.
'Rethink' website says...
skylarks. The birds are able to
'Rethink' website says...
Common bird species such as sparrow and skylark facing decline in Europe. Solar Farms can protect them.
They link to
a Guardian article here...
The article does not mention solar farms.
Both Skylark and Stone Curlew already nest on these fields.
Both species will only nest on big open spaces as they need to see approaching airborne and ground predators.
Both species are endangered mainly due to loss of habitat.
Neither species will nest among solar panels.
is a bird of dry, open places with bare, stony ground or very short
And RSPB website says....
"Large-scale solar 'farms' are a potential concern in sensitive locations, as they could reduce the suitability of habitats for key species."
or they just don't care.
'Rethink' website says...
"Solar panels will be mounted in wide-spaced south-facing rows and raised one metre above ground to allow sheep to graze freely across the open site."
contend that the proposed sheep-grazing would be detrimental to the
site. It is well-known that sheep crop vegetation of a very low
the Middle Ages much of The Brecks was destroyed by over- grazing
South West Norfolk
MP and Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss
farmland is some of the best in the world and I want to see it
dedicated to growing quality food and crops. I do not want to see its
productive potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms.
Farming is what our farms are for and it is what keeps our landscape
are many, many houses in Bridgham displaying 'NO to Solar Farm' posters
in their windows and elsewhere on their properties, despite the fact
that these are often found to have been removed during the night, even
from private properties, and have to be repeatedly replaced. Two
large "No to Solar Farm" banners have actually been stolen.
We say this should not be in anyones 'backyard'.
5th July 2014 Another
banner objecting to proposed solar farm has been stolen
There are very few suspects as only 3% of Bridgham are in favour of the scheme.
Diss Express 12th March 2014
Bridgham - a village under siege. Please read on....
Eastern Daily Press 17th March 2014
Eastern Daily Press 10th March 2014
To Mr. Pete Grogan REthink Energy Ltd.
Dear Mr Grogan,
Hall Farm Solar Project
We refer to your letter of 11th February, inviting Bridgham residents to register their interest in your Local Electricity Discount Scheme, and to the recent invitation to the drop-in session. The latter gave just a week's notice, which cannot be said to be in the spirit of engagement with the village community.
Your letter and its accompanying glossy, stylish brochure and response card display considerable arrogance. We say this because they suggest implicitly that the project will happen. You even refer to us as neighbours. We do not know what, if any, legal interest you have in the project site, but you are certainly not our neighbours. Whilst you make it clear that the discount scheme is subject to the project receiving planning permission, we consider that it is presumptuous of you to invite interest in the scheme in advance of providing full details of the project.
You do not say whether the solar farm would occupy the same land which was the subject of the withdrawn planning application. You just refer to land west of Bridgham and specify an area of approximately 60 hectares. This is some 10 hectares smaller than the area originally proposed, but the power output has increased from 30 mW to 36 mW. You do not say how this 20% increase in power generation will be achieved on a 14% smaller site. However, for the purpose of this letter, we are assuming that the project site is essentially the same as that which was the subject of the withdrawn planning application.
Your brochure states that “the site will be fully screened from view in a way that is consistent with the natural integrity of the landscape such that its character will be enhanced by returning it to its traditional state”. The drop-in invitation says something similar: “Revisions to the proposals include extensive enhancement of landscape screening consistent with the natural integrity of the Brecks landscape, such that the site will not be visible from the village of Bridgham or the surrounding area. These statements are absurd and gobbledegook. The natural integrity of the fields in question is their unimpaired state and the traditional state of the land is one which is open, cultivated and/or grazed. The construction of some 144,000 solar panels together with attendant infrastructure, security fencing and full screening will result in the opposite of what you claim.
A landscape is not an abstract thing; it is non-existent if it cannot be seen. The construction of a solar farm would cause great harm to the traditional landscape. Full screening would hide an eyesore, but it would also remove the fields from the landscape and break up its integrity. One cannot mitigate against the adverse impact of a solar farm on the open landscape of these Breckland fields. What villagers are opposed to is the loss of the open fields and the Breckland views which they provide.
You say that just one third of the land will be occupied by the panels. From the sky above the site this may be apparent, but from eye level the fields would be overrun with panels and the openness of the site completely lost.
The front page of your brochure states that the solar project is near to the village of Bridgham. This is misleading for the site is immediately adjacent to the village. Also disingenuous is the design of the brochure which gives the impression that the solar panels would make a positive contribution to the rural idyll portrayed.
Bridgham is a pastoral village straddling the river Thet and set within the beautiful landscape of the Brecks. It derives its amenity from these attributes, which are greatly valued by the community. People choose to live in Bridgam not because it has a pub, which it hasn't, nor because it has a village shop, which it also hasn't, but because of its setting in the landscape and the pleasure which that landscape provides. Your solar project would significantly damage the landscape and thus the amenity of the village and the enjoyment of its residents. A financial benefit would not replace the loss of amenity. In any event, the loss would endure for 25 years, whilst your LEDS would last for just one fifth of that time.
You say that the majority of the land is Grade 4. What you don't say is how much of the land is Grade 3 (moderate to good quality) and whether any of the land is Subgrade 3a (good quality). By inference, some of the land is at least moderate quality and, therefore, it is incorrect for you to state that the solar panels would be installed “on circa 60 hectares of low grade agricultural land”. Some sheep grazing already takes place and it is open to the Wright family to extend sheep grazing to all of the land and to farm it organically. It does not need to be covered in solar panels for it to be farmed in a more environmentally sensitive way.
It is outrageous of you to describe irrigation by licensed abstraction from the Thet and the application of fertilizers as industrialised farming techniques, which they are not, when you are proposing an industrial use of the land for the generation of electricity through the construction of some 144,000 solar panels. In fact the site would be so industrialised that in an attempt to make it acceptable you would screen it from view and remove it from the landscape. Also, the land has most often been in cereals (mainly barley) and grass leys. These crops are not usually irrigated.
You state that the power generated from the solar farm would be consumed directly by Thetford and its surrounding villages. Where is the 'chapter and verse' for this statement and if it can be ring-fenced for local use, would an equivalent mega wattage be diverted to other parts of the country because current generation in East Anglia exceeds its demand for electricity?
You refer in your literature to 'best practice', yet you seek to construct one of the country's largest solar farms in the Brecks Landscape Character Area, immediately adjacent to a beautiful Breckland village and with a connection to the Grid requiring the laying of a cable over a distance of some 10 miles. That is not best practice; it is ridiculous and hugely objectionable. Why are you doing this? We contend that it is primarily for the purpose of making money and you would do it notwithstanding that it would damage the landscape and cause distress to the local community.
We have made it clear that we do not want your solar farm on our doorstep and no amount of persuasion will cause us to change our minds. Should you apply for planning permission we would oppose it vigorously.
Bridgham Village Committee
solar farm rejected.
Meanwhile - Rethink are back in Bridgham with another bribe. This time they are offering £200 a year (for 5 years) off our electricity bills.
EDP 15 February 2014
EDP 12 February 2014
Farmers Wright, Rethink and whoever ends up owning the project stand to make millions out of us, the taxpayer via ridiculous subsidies.
are also offering £200k to "conserve, enhance and preserve the
They claim to be forcing this upon us for the good of the planet (greenwash).
We say it is solely to make lots of money.
Can Rethink truly be
unaware of the inefficiency
of solar this far from the equator or that most solar panels are made
in China, arriving with a massive carbon footprint that will probably
not be offset after 25 years of use.
This industrial development would be three times the size of Bridgham Village and immediately adjacent.
See map below.
We are in favour of renewable energy, but not when something of this scale is being forced upon our village.
It would be
surrounded by a high security fence and CCTV cameras -
According to the 'Infrastructure planning team at UK Power Networks' East Anglia is over capacity for electricity and connectivity is at saturation point. New cables will need to be laid for 10 miles to Thetford to supply London and other large cities.
capacity worries spark UK solar farm boom"
Developers are racing to install large-scale solar parks on land across the UK in unprecedented numbers.
The rush has been sparked by concerns that Britain's ageing electrical grid has limited capacity for renewable energy.
Environmental campaigners are concerned by the size of the solar farms being proposed.
They argue that using agricultural land for energy production is swapping one form of dependency for another.
To read in full - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24659790
The Rt Hon
Gregory Barker MP The Minister for Energy and Climate Change gave a
speech to the solar PV industry on 25 April 2013.
Originally given at County Hall, Truro, Cornwall. This is an excerpt
from text of the speech as drafted, which may differ slightly from the
Gregory Barker went on to say - “I
want local planning authorities to be much bolder in refusing
inappropriate solar developments. If that’s not enough I will come
forward with sustainability criteria and not allow them to claim
Some of the Bridgham
residents who are against the solar 'farm'.
Daily Press 4th July 2013
A petition was conducted in August 2013 to assess the strength of feeling against the solar 'farm'.
were against the development.
3% were for it.
2% were undecided or not interested.
4% Unable to comment due to association with landowner (Wright).
The petition contains 148 local
against the solar 'farm'.
To view the petition click this link.
Bridgham resident since 1934 said...
Having been born in this village and seen so many changes over the past 70 plus years I feel my word and knowledge should be taken note of.
In the first instance the land which will be taken by this proposed plan has always been good farm land and until the last two years, when one field has been neglected, has always to my knowledge produced good crops.
When we are already losing so much farmland to housing etc can this country sustain losing good cereal producing areas. During the 1950’s and 1960’s hedgerows were ripped out on this area and the previous five fields were reduced to two to the detriment of numerous birds and hedgerow wild flowers with the result of drying the soil out so quickly that irrigation has to be carried out.
Therefore my bone of contention is that in looking at this application errors of the past should be born in mind. If solar energy is to come why on earth are they not erected on roofs of factories etc.
We are a group of islands and therefore it make sense to use tidal power in order to retain what land we have left.
"We are totally in favour of renewable
energy but 'solar power' is not
the answer for the UK, although it can play a part, for example on the
rooves of industrial units and high buildings, hospitals , schools etc.
"Green projects can only be considered green if they do not detract unduly from the environment and its well being. Developments on the scale of, and sited in a location such as, the proposed solar farm at Bridgham cannot by any stretch of the imagination be viewed in a positive light; indeed, the cost to the local environment at Bridgham must surely far outweigh the benefit to the country.
must fight to protect the environment above all else, since once the
damage is done, it can rarely be undone, and future generations will
judge us harshly indeed if we allow the short term profit of a few to
result in us bequeathing to them an environment denuded of much of its
wildlife and visual beauty."
The following shows the application for the massive 'solar farm' by Rethink Energy, Ward Hill and farmers Wright.
So far we can find no evidence that Rethink have ever done anything like this before.
They seem to have made up a set of guidelines for themselves - then immediately disregarded most of them.
Re-think website says -
Ideal sites fit the following parameters:
• Low grade, unproductive land that could be grazed by sheep
(It is productive land)
• Away from residential areas and / or through hedge and tree
planting could be screened from public view
(It is right next to the village and screening would block out the landscape)
• Close to an electricity substation
(Is 10 miles close?)
As can be seen below, the huge site would be right next to the village and the wonderful views we enjoy would be stolen from us and replaced by an industrial landscape.
says - Ideal sites fit the following parameters:
says - Ideal sites fit the following parameters:
photo below shows a small part of the right hand field, being harvested on the
13th August 2013.
says - Ideal sites fit the following parameters:
photo below gives some idea of the size of this same field which is the
smaller of the two.
appears, from Rethink plans, that the bottom of this path will be
blocked by security fences.
appears, from Rethink plans, that the bottom of this path will be
blocked by security fences.
landscape is not an abstract thing; it is non-existent if it cannot
be seen. The construction of a solar farm would cause great harm
to the traditional landscape. Full screening would hide an
eyesore, but it would also remove the fields from the landscape and
break up its integrity. One cannot mitigate against the adverse impact
of a solar farm on the open landscape of these Breckland fields."
John Besent OBE
4th July 2013
''But not at any
cost… not in any place… not if it rides roughshod over the views of
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Thank you for your
email. I have been extremely concerned by the
increasing use of agricultural land for the provision of fuel whether
this be solar plants or bio fuels. I have in the past raised
these concerns with the Department for Energy and Climate Change and
earlier this year I met with the DEFRA Secretary of State Owen
Patterson to reiterate my concerns . The DECC Minister Greg Barker
speaking in the House of Commons in January this year made the
“We need to be careful that we do not over-incentivise large-scale ground-mounted projects in inappropriate places – I am thinking of greenfield agricultural land – that could generate strong opposition to our community energy agenda… …It needs careful design and thoughtful consideration. It certainly could not be a scheme about renewable energy at any cost. Impacts on the local community, on landscape and on consumer bills have to be a real consideration…”
I am concerned that subsidies for these plants distort the market and end up competing with farming for the same resource – land. In the long run this will drive up prices and create a reduction in suitable agricultural land used for food production.
The significant opposition by local residents illustrates the lack of support for the solar farm. The location is not appropriate and with food and farming being the UK’s largest manufacturing industry any future planning proposals should ensure this sector is protected. I will urge Breckland Council to carefully consider the points I have made.
Elizabeth Truss MP
OF JOHN BESENT
BACKGROUND TO MY OBJECTION
1. With 144,288 solar panels extending over some 170 acres and producing 30 megawatts of electricity sufficient to supply, I believe, up to 10,000 homes, the proposed solar farm would be among the largest in the country and the largest in Norfolk. It is important, therefore, that it should be appropriately sited and has the backing of the local community.
2. In its introduction, the new Planning Practice Guidance for Renewable and Low Carbon Energy, issued this July by the Department for Communities and Local Government, says that Government planning practice guidance can be a material consideration in planning decisions and should generally be followed unless there are clear reasons not to. The new Guidance was introduced in order to tackle, in the words of Energy Secretary Greg Barker, the “menace of inappropriate large-scale arrays” and to ensure that localism/ local opinion, is properly taken account of. He said “Solar has a bright future in the UK, but not in any place and not at any price. I want UK solar targeted on industrial roofs, homes and brownfield sites, not on our beautiful countryside”.
3. In the Press Release of 29th July that accompanied the publication of the new Guidance, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:
“The views of local people must be listened to when making planning decisions. Meeting Britain’s energy needs should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location.
This new guidance is an important step in ensuring that communities can continue to shape their local surroundings and that landscape and heritage are properly considered and protected.
Planning always works best when local communities themselves have the opportunity to influence the decisions that affect their lives. That is why it is so important every area has a local plan in place as soon as possible”.
4. Time and time again, the Planning Practice Guidance emphasises the importance of local opinion.
• At paragraph 5: whilst “all communities have a responsibility to help increase the use and supply of green energy, this does not mean that the need for renewable energy automatically overrides environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities. As with other types of development, it is important that the planning concerns of local communities are properly heard in matters that directly affect them.
• At paragraph 6: “Local and neighbourhood plans are the key to delivering development that has the backing of local communities”, and as regards green energy developments, “there is no quota which the Local Plan has to deliver”.
• At paragraph 8: “There are no hard and fast rules about how suitable areas for renewable energy should be identified, but in considering locations, local planning authorities will need to ensure they take into account..., critically, the potential impacts on the local environment” and (at paragraph 12) “the proximity of grid connection infrastructure and site size”.
• Also at paragraph 8: “The views of local communities likely to be affected should be listened to”.
• At paragraph 11: “the expectation should always be that an application should only be approved if the impact is (or can be made) acceptable”.
• And at paragraph 15: “Protecting local amenity is an important consideration which should be given proper weight in planning decisions”.
DETAILS OF MY OBJECTION
5. Turning now to the Solar Farm proposal at Bridgham, the applicant’s contention that the site is a suitable one is based on their statement that “the site lies in a relatively isolated location away from residential properties” and “has limited views from public vantage points outside the site”. Both of these assertions are false. The site is hard up against the village and only separated from the village’s former forestry cottages by a narrow grass track. On its north side, the site lies alongside the High Bridgham Road, on the opposite side of which and facing the site are two residential properties. There are also two cottages to the south west of the site. Physically, the village would be dominated by the solar farm, notwithstanding hedge screening.
6. The river Thet valley, in which the village lies, is beautiful and an important element in the landscape of the Brecks. The fields comprising the application site are an integral part of that landscape and views across these fields from High Bridgham Road and the Bridgham-Brettenham road are enjoyed by villagers and visitors alike. That has been the case for generations. Running through the centre of the site from north to south is a sandy track. This is much used by local people and although it is not a public right of way, there are prescriptive rights of passage on foot and horseback. I, for one, have walked along this track for some 24 years without permission from the landowner and without let or hindrance. The views across the fields from this track are wonderful and give immense pleasure and enjoyment. Should the solar farm proceed, these views would be lost completely and the track would become a dark, hostile place bordered on one side by an existing hedge and on the other by a 2.5m high security fence and an evergreen hedge of at least equal height.
7. In addition to the physical impact on the amenity of the village, there would be a significant malign emotional impact on the village residents. There is a wonderful community spirit in the village, which has been given a boost in recent years by the efforts of the Bridgham Millennium Group and in particular the publication in 2010 of VILLAGE LIFE: The Story of Bridgham in Norfolk.
8. I believe that the solar farm would undermine residents’ pride in their village and their sense of place. It would certainly undermine mine. It would not surprise me if Bridgham became known locally if not further afield as the ‘solar village’ and that when I am asked in which village I live and respond Bridgham, my enquirer will say “oh, I’m so sorry, that’s the village with the huge solar farm isn’t it”.
9. One of the criteria for site suitability is that there should be reasonable proximity of the solar farm to the national grid, and, ideally, the scheme should be of benefit to the local community. In the case of the proposal for Bridgham, there would be no benefit to the community and the power generated would have to be taken all the way to Thetford by cable under the highway with all the disruption that that would entail. I don’t know for sure, but I am given to understand that there is no spare capacity on the grid at Thetford and that therefore the power may have to be transmitted to as far away as London.
10. At a recent meeting of the Bridgham Parish Council, a petition was presented with 93% of respondents in the village opposing the proposed solar farm. There were only 3 people in favour with more than 100 against. To emphasise the community’s opposition to the scheme, most of the houses in the village are displaying ‘NO TO SOLAR FARM’ or other similar signs. It is quite clear, therefore, that the village does not want the solar farm on its doorstep.
11. There was a similar opposition to a proposed solar farm at Tedburn St. Mary in Devon. That proposal was for a much smaller scheme than the one proposed for Bridgham. It would cover only 40 acres and, unlike the Bridgham scheme, was to be sited the best part of a mile from the village. Notwithstanding its relatively small size and distance from the village, the scheme was rejected by the local planning authority by 15 votes to 5, against the recommendation of the Planning Officer, on account of possible impacts on the area.
12. To summarise, the proposed solar farm development at Bridgham is far too big and far too close to the village. It would be a wrong development in the wrong location. The solar farm would dominate the village, no amount of screening would hide the fact that it would be there, cherished Breckland landscape views would be lost, pride in the village destroyed and the will of the community would be overridden if planning permission were to be granted. I, therefore, urge the Planning Committee of Breckland District Council to reject the application. I wish to be notified of the decision.
John Besent OBE FRICS
The Street, Bridgham
18th August 2013
This submission is supplementary to my objection dated 18th August 2013 and compares the proposed solar farm at Bridgham with other solar farms, both approved and operating, in respect of size (acreage and megawatt[MW] generation), proximity to residential areas and ease of connection to the National Grid. It also considers the ability of the Bridgham site to grow crops.
According to the Interactive Map of Renewable and Alternative Energy Projects in the UK, which lists major solar schemes in the UK, there are 102 schemes in operation, each generating between 1 and 35MW of electricity, and 70 schemes approved/in course of construction also generating between 1 and 35 MW. Of the total of 172 schemes, the vast majority (127) are small in size, each generating less than 6 MW. Only 12 generate 15 MW and over and only 2 generate more (35 MW) than the Bridgham scheme (30MW). It can be seen, therefore, that the Bridgham scheme is huge in relation to the vast majority of schemes; that is why its location is such an important consideration in determining this planning application.
LOCATION IN RELATION TO RESIDENTIAL AREAS AND EASE OF CONNECTION TO THE NATIONAL GRID.
Together with size, these are important factors to be taken into consideration. Paragraphs 8 and 12 of the new Planning Practice Guide for Renewable and Low Carbon Energy state that in considering locations, local planning authorities will need to ensure that they take into account, inter alia, but critically, the potential impacts on the local environment; also the proximity of Grid connection infrastructure and site size. In the Bridgham case, the local environment is the bucolic landscape of the River Thet valley and its village community of rural dwellers.
The applicants themselves acknowledge the importance of location. They say that an ideal site for a solar farm should be away from residential areas and close to an electricity substation. On their website ReThink state that they always endeavour to adapt and update their project plans following public consultations to ensure they are not missing anything vital to the local community and that the local community is happy. They go on to say that whether they need to change their site location, adjust some of the layout, or ensure that they have tailored the construction plan to suit local priorities, they will always try to help. ReThink have not responded at all to the views of the community of Bridgham.
I have examined the planning applications for the 3 largest solar farms in operation and the 3 largest approved or under construction. I have compared them with the Bridgham scheme in respect of their size in terms of acreage and power output, and their proximity to residential areas and a Grid connection. The comparisons are set out below.
1. There are a small number of residential properties 380 yds to the north east.
2. There are a small number of residential properties in the locality, the closest of which is 440 yds to the south east.
It can be seen from the above list that the proposal for Bridgham in terms of proximity to residential areas and a Grid connection contrasts markedly with the other schemes. Consequently, should planning permission be granted for the Bridgham proposal, it would be a major departure from the precedent set by the other schemes in their distance from residential areas and their closeness to a Grid connection.
ABILITY OF THE SITE TO GROW CROPS
The applicant describes the site as low quality agricultural land (grade 3b). This is incorrect as grade 3b on the Agricultural Land Classification of England and Wales is moderate quality agricultural land capable of producing moderate yields of a narrow range of crops, principally cereals and grass. The applicant states that it is poor wheat growing land. That may be so given the light and sandy nature of the soil, but I suspect it grows barley pretty well. It has grown potatoes and sugar beet. Being drought resistant, forage maize could be grown and possibly also maize for bio-fuel. It may not be economic to grow some of these crops on the land at the present time, but markets and financial support are subject to change, particularly in a world short of food.
John Besent OBE FRICS
10th September 2013
"RETHINK’S SELECTION CRITERIA
The key to ReThink Energy’s success is that we always work in consultation with local people and act sensitively to the needs of local residents, land owners and parish councils. A renewable energy project is for the benefit of the community first and for Britain second, and so the development of the project should be a seen as a partnership.*
At ReThink, we pride ourselves on the collaborative nature of our development process, but before we even reach the stage at which a renewable energy project appears technically suitable for a given location, the site must undergo a rigorous series of assessments for suitability and pass a set of strict planning criteria. These assessments include, but aren’t limited to:
• Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments, to ensure that local
residents’ views will not be negatively impacted
• Ecological assessments and wildlife surveys, to make sure that the
proposed project wouldn’t disturb any animals or plants currently using
• Archaeological Assessments, often including full geophysical surveys to
ensure that nothing of archaeological interest would be disturbed by the
project (Often our geophysical surveys provide the first opportunity for
archaeologists to get an idea of what may lie below the land in question)
• Flood Risk Assessments
• Topographical Surveys
• Access analysis for the short construction phase, to ensure that local
traffic flow is not affected
• Analysis of potential mitigation measures
Following a successful screening using the methods mentioned above, ReThink Energy then begins community consultation. Although we are not required to discuss our proposals with the local community, much less act upon the feedback we receive, ReThink Energy places a huge amount of importance upon community consultation. We believe it’s vital to include input from the local community in the final design and layout of our projects.
ReThink always endeavour to adapt and update our project plans following public consultations to ensure we’re not missing anything vital to the local community and that the local community is happy. Whether we need to change our site location, adjust some of the layout, or ensure that we’ve tailored the construction plan to suit local priorities, ReThink will always try to help."
*Norfolk is over capacity for electricity, requiring new cables to be laid to Thetford, and it is London that needs this.
From David O'Neale to Ward Hill
Solar Panels 'Application pack'
1. ARCHAEOLOGY: Clearly you have gone to a lot of trouble in paying for researchers to prepare a report on Bridgham’s archaeology. It is a pity, therefore, that it is riddled with errors of commission and omission.
Here are points I would like to correct (pg numbers refer to the book 'VILLAGE LIFE' see below):
a) There are several references to Oakwall Cottage. It is in fact, Oakwell Cottage. See pg 59 and images of diamond mullioned wooden window frames.
b) The report says at least twice that the school shut in 1951/2. In fact, it closed in 1978, a year after its centenary celebrations (pgs 191-99).
c) The report states that Bridgham was owned by Ely Cathedral until the 17th century. Actually, it was appropriated by the Crown in 1558, which is the 16th century. (pg. 55 and for the Bishop’s survey of Bridgham in 1251, see pgs 26-39 which includes all the field names. (Pgs 108-109 list the field names in 1251, 1558, 1734 & 1838).
d) The report says that my house, Mill House was possibly built in 1808 at the same time as the postmill. However, my house is clearly visible on the 1806 Enclosure Map and Faden’s map of 1797, which are in your report.
e) On page 19 of the report it states that there are no WW2 sites. This is completely untrue. Just north of High Bridgham Rd, the first ever Typhoon crashed killing the pilot in 1943 (R7592), pg 157. In the same year, an American B-17 Flying Fortress bomber (The Spirit of St Louis) crashed on the Bridgham/West Harling border killing all ten airmen. Pgs 167-69. Debris is still being discovered at the crash site, eg. Bullets and pressure gauge imbedded in trees. A Wellington crashed at Broom’s crossing but was repaired and took off again. A Lancaster crashed outside Roudham Hall and eight airmen were killed. I don’t understand why your researcher didn’t consult Merv Hambling’s: Norfolk Air Crashes; RAF 1939-45 & Norfolk Air Crashes; USAAF, 1943-35. I have been told that there was a searchlight battery on High Bridgham Rd and that very near the designated site was a MOL camp for the unemployed from the north who lived in Nissen huts at Bridgham Paddocks and on West Harling Common. I think it was in the 1930s before the war started. Pg 154
f) VIKINGS There is not much information in the report on the Viking presence in Bridgham. For very good reasons, we had Viking re-enactment weekends in Bridgham in 2007 and 2010. In 1010, The Battle of Ringmere took place on the boundary of Bridgham, thousands of Vikings came up from Suffolk and destroyed ‘the flower of the English’. Pgs 8-18. About 25 years ago, I was told that scouts or cubs were digging by the river Thet at Harling Thorpe and uncovered Viking skeletons.
g) PILGRIM ROUTE Coming up from West Harling on Forestry Track 76, there has been a bridge here since time immemorial – hence the village’s name, which is Saxon. It is believed this became a pilgrim route to the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham. Medieval pilgrims would have then walked up what we now call Trickle Lane which appears on all the maps in your report. In the 1797 map, instead of going straight up as it does now, the path veers to the left and crosses what is envisaged as solar panel field one. This seems to contravene your conclusion on pg 55 of your Landscape and Visual assessment which states: ‘Major views: no public rights of way or highways with direct, open and proximate views of the application area.’ Walsingham became a place of pilgrimage in 1061, so Trickle lane has probably been a right of way for at least 950 years.
h) NHER 51390 in the archaeology report it says this is a medieval well, close to the Peddars Way. However, the well is very close to the Roman settlement on the Brettenham/Bridgham border, with a Saxon cemetery built on top. So this may be a concern to consider. When I was compiling Village Life a county archaeologist told me that all the evidence points to there being a silver or gold hoard in Bridgham.
i) ECOLOGY: You may wish to refer to pgs 310-19 of Village Life written by a botanist and bird-watcher.
j) MYSTERY HOUSE: On page 9 of your Landscape and Visual assessment there is a photo of a house which one presumes to be in Bridgham. However, I don’t recognise it. It is close to the pavement with a flint wall and a buttress. We photographed every house in Bridgham for the Village Life book and I can’t work out where it is. I have even used Streetview on the internet and still can’t spot it. Is it really in Bridgham?
David O'Neale MBE
From David O'Neale to Joel Tomlinson at ReThink Energy 30th August 2013Dear Joel Tomlinson
Thank you for your hand-delivered letter with FAQs which I received yesterday. It seems they were only given to those who had objected to your plans, rather than informing every household in the village. To me, this shows you are clearly rattled and it smacks of desperation.
You make reference to solar panels on the roof of the White House. 21 years ago, when Bill Clinton was successful in getting into the White House, one of his campaign slogans was
‘It’s the economy, stupid!’
The slogan for my campaign is
‘It’s Location, Location, stupid!’
What most of the residents object to is the siting of the Solar Farm up against Forestry Cottages. Many of us enjoy the spectacular view from High Bridgham looking down on the Thet Valley to the medieval church. There is no way that boundary hedging will hide that eyesore and there are two houses at High Bridgham which will have a view of it.
North of the A11, yet still in Bridgham is part of the Batttle Area where sheep graze. There are no houses nearby. Why don’t you put it there and pay the MoD for rental? Another possibility is the vast Shadwell Park at Brettenham which extends virtually to Thetford. Most of it can’t be seen from the road so there would be no visual objection. Also, it is nearer Thetford so would cost less to connect the cables to the town. Many of us think that Solar Power is a good idea, but you have to be sensitive as to where you place it.
In today’s Eastern Daily Press you are quoted as saying, ‘the Hall Farm project will primarily supply Thetford and Bridgham.’ This appears to be misinformation to me as we have been told that power generation in Norfolk exceeds demand. We have been informed that Thetford may not use the electricity and it may go to London. Ward Hill were clear in explaining to us that Bridgham would get no benefit. We will not get cheaper electricity for having to put up with this eyesore.
In many places in Norfolk, when small housing developments receive planning permission, the company is often obliged to provide a building for the community such as a village hall or sports pavilion. But here in Bridgham, we are promised nothing.
Ward Hill’s archaeological report was so riddled with errors I suggested they should have consulted Village Life, The Story of Bridgham in Norfolk. When they temporarily withdrew their application they had already received my correction list of their report. However, when they resubmitted the report, they didn’t change a single word. Given this cavalier attitude, I have no faith in what Rethink Energy Limited and Ward Hill may tell us, especially in the FAQs.
You may be interested in pages 256-7 of Village Life which deals with our successful protests about other planning applications. In the 1980s, Atlas Aggregates wanted to extract gravel south of the river Thet. The proposal was rejected and according to planning officials involved at the time this was largely due to the anti-campaign, which reportedly was one of the most effective the county council had ever seen. It was also the biggest number of objections they had ever received. Even Prince Charles wrote a letter of support which was placed in the village shop window.
Five years ago, gravel extraction on Manor Farm became another planning issue. Bridgham and Harling between them made such a fuss that the application was withdrawn. So you see what you are up against with both Bridgham residents and Harling Parish Council against your proposals.
Health issues. Your FAQs make out that the Solar Farms are safe for human health, but many of us have seen websites about inverters and how they can affect humans, particularly children and people with epilepsy. We would like to have some accurate answers on these issues. Has any research been undertaken? And how might effect sheep which then enter the food chain?
15 years ago we set up the Bridgham Millennium Group. Part of its constitution states:
In celebrating and enhancing the community, heritage and environs of Bridgham:
(a) To improve the social and physical environment of the village both now
and for the future.
(b) To promote in residents a greater cultural/historical understanding of the village’s heritage and their active participation in its preservation.
So it is clear you have a fight on your hands.
A month ago, I received an MBE from Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle for services to the community of Bridgham. So you can see, I will continue to serve the community and many of the residents agree with me in objecting to the siting of this Solar Farm.
David O’Neale MBE
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