Innova are planning to develop, construct and operate a new solar installation located on land at Bucklesham Hall Farm, to the East of Brightwell Road and East of Bucklesham. The site would generate 24.8MWp of renewable energy, enough to power 6,292 homes and save 65,260 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
The site has been carefully selected and designed through a detailed assessment process considering grid availability, solar irradiance, heritage, landscape & amenity, ecology & environmental designations, access, and agricultural land quality. We have engaged a team of expert consultants to provide advice on the project.
We submitted our planning application East Suffolk Council in November 2022.
We have previously engaged with East Suffolk Council and statutory consultees through their pre-application planning advice service and received their formal comments in December 21.
We have undertaken an iterative design process, responding to the results of environmental field work and engagement with the Local Planning Authority and consultees.
In response to that work and feedback we have amended the project by reducing the overall scale of the scheme and focusing it on areas identified as being least constrained, in particular in response cultural heritage (archaeology) and potential landscape and visual effects. The project now focuses on an area of approximately 22.5 ha, a reduction in scale from our original scheme of about 50%
As part of the proposals, we will be installing new, and reinforcing existing, hedgerow boundaries across the site and tree belt planting will be installed on a section of Brightwell Road. This will minimise the visual impact of the development and help screen it in the wider landscape.
A public footpath (Footpath 9) runs along the eastern boundary of the site. The development has been set back from that footpath and will be securely fenced with wooden post and mesh ‘deer fencing’ to retain a wide corridor and ensure the footpath remains accessible to all users. A new hedgerow will be planted between the edge of the proposed development and the footpath.
The area under solar farm will be allowed to regenerate naturally from the seedbank. The approach to the mitigation is based on maintaining bare open soils which is important for invertebrate assemblages. This will support a community of important locally present native mining bees which have been identified through our programme of ecological assessment.
All our sites deliver Biodiversity Net Gain, and we will wherever possible exceed the statutory requirements for this. We are currently finalising our Biodiversity Net Gain calculations for the site.
Solar Panels: The solar panels will be mounted with a maximum rear & front height of approximately 3.1m and 0.8m respectively. These will be angled between 15-30 degrees with a 3m row spacing. The frames will be fixed to the ground with piled posts or ground screws.
Inverter units: These convert the power from DC to AC and are mounted on the back of the solar panels at intervals across the site. They will sit below the highest point of the rear of the panels.
Substation buildings: Two substation buildings will be built. These are both located in the North-eastern corner of the field. The buildings will be approximately 6.1m (L) x 2.4m (H) x 2.6m (W) and required to connect the solar farm to the local electricity network, and meter the production. All electrical cabling to the substation will be underground. These are storage container style buildings. It is proposed they will have a dark green finish.
Transformer units: These are approximately 10.5m (L) x 3.5m (H) x 3.0m (W). They will be required for each section of the solar farm to step the voltage up to a suitable export level. Approximately 11 transformers will be required on site and distributed at roughly even distances. These are grey boxes and include the associated electrical infrastructure.
Perimeter fence & Security: A ‘deer style’ fence of approximately 2 metres high will be built around the site, consisting of wooden posts supporting traditional wire stock fencing. Infrared CCTV cameras may be required and would be mounted on poles approximately 3m high. These would be placed on the fence line and orientated into the site. There would be no external lighting required anywhere on site.
Access to the site will be from an existing field entrance from Brightwell Road. For construction all movements to site will be taken via the A12/ A14. There will be no traffic going through the villages of either Bucklesham or Newbourne.
Traffic management measures will be employed to ensure safe entry and exit from this junction. This would be agreed in consultation with the Local Highway Authority and controlled through a detailed management plan, secured by planning conditions.
Advanced notification will be provided for road users and residents ahead of the anticipated four-month construction period.
Upon completion of construction there will be minimal traffic during the operational period with maintenance only requiring a site visit roughly once per month. Operational visits are usually carried out by one or two personnel, in a light goods vehicle, to undertake routine maintenance and project checks. We would also make occasional trips to site as part of our ongoing planning and environmental management compliance checks. For example, to check on our ongoing landscaping and ecological management measures, and to identify opportunities for additional enhancements.
Specialist Environmental Surveys
A range of specialist consultants have undertaken surveys to be submitted with the planning application to aid in the design process and ensure the site is appropriate for solar development.
Landscape & Visual: The site extends across one field. The field currently benefits from existing landscape screening, within an extensive network of bounding hedges and woodland. We are planning to enhance and reinforce that screening. Our application will include photomontages showing how the proposals would look within the landscape, taken from key viewpoints which we have agreed with the Local Planning Authority.
Agricultural Land Quality:An assessment of the Agricultural Land Quality has been undertaken and shows only 19% of the site is situated on BMV (best most versatile land) and the majority of the site being grade 3b. If the proposals go ahead the land will be taken out of intense agricultural production and be able to ‘rest’ whilst the solar farm is in operation. There should be no long term affect to soil quality because of the solar farm construction. Current research indicates that across the lifetime of a solar farm soil quality can actually improve so when it returns to agricultural use it would be in better condition than before. We would monitor that as part of our ongoing management of the site.
Cultural Heritage and Archaeology: Our specialists have carried out cultural heritage assessments, considering the potential for both buried archaeology on site and inter- relationships with nearby above ground heritage assets. We have carried out geophysical survey of the site and engaged with the Local Panning Authority and County Archaeologist regarding those results. The scheme has been refined in response to those discussions.
Ecology:A bespoke biodiversity strategy has been prepared that ensures existing and new habitats are enhanced or created to benefit local wildlife. Natural regeneration from seedbank under the panels is expected to maintain bare soils which will support Nationally scarce but locally present native mining bees. Natural regeneration is expected to lead to heathland habitat creation and will be monitored over time, additional works (such as green hay spreading) to create this habitat will be done if required.
Hydrology: Land use change to native vegetation from intensively farmed agricultural land will lead to an improvement in soil structure reduce rates of surface water runoff and erosion. A flood risk assessment has therefore determined the site to be safe from all forms of flooding and will in fact reduce risk of pollution and flooding downstream.
Noise: A noise assessment has determined that are no noise related issues associated with the Bucklesham Solar Farm with no adverse effects predicted.
Glint and Glare: A glint and glare survey has found with introduction of mitigations, such as hedgerow planting which has been incorporated into our design, there is predicted to be both no impacts or effects on nearby receptors.
Renewable Energy and Climate Change
There is widespread awareness of the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and an encouragement to increase the generation and use of renewable energy.
East Suffolk Council has declared a climate emergency and is committed to working towards the aspiration of making the area as a whole carbon neutral by 2030
The UK has committed to becoming Net Zero by 2050 and a target to decarbonise the electricity grid by 2035. This requires an extra 3GW of solar to be built each year. Renewable energy developments like the Bucklesham Solar Farm are a key part of addressing the Climate Emergency, as part of the delivery of an overall mix of new renewable energy generation projects across the Country. The importance of this was reinforced in the British Energy Security Strategy, released by UK Government in April 2022.
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