WALTHAM ABBEY: Solar farm developer confident about latest plans

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Netherhouse Farm Netherhouse Farm

A LAND owner who wants to build what would be one of the most powerful solar farms in the country has hit back at planners who threw his original proposal out.

The solar park at Netherhouse Farm south of Waltham Abbey would cover the equivalent of about 20 football pitches and supply enough green energy to supply green power to 2,000 homes.

But the district council said it could become an eyesore in that part of the landscape, which lies between Epping Forest and the Lee Valley National Park, and threw the original plans out in September.

Applicant Tommy Tomkins, 69, has employed a group of experts he says have ironed out the problems raised by the council.

“I’m pleased with what we’ve done,” he said. “We’ve addressed everything and done what we can.

“The decision will come some time after Christmas.”

As well as its visual impact, the council said not enough information was given on how the development might affect wildlife and the flood risk it could pose.

The latest plans for the farm include a 13-page report on wild animals, trees and plants, which states that there is no evidence of badgers or other protected species such as newts on the site.

It also said the fields surrounding the solar panels should be used for grazing or making hay if the project goes ahead, to keep it in its current condition.

The new plans also include a 75-page which gives details on nearby nature reserves, including Epping Forest and Chingford Reservoir, and states that development at Netherhouse Farm would not impact on these.

It also notes that skylarks are among the birds found on the farm and said any cutting back of long grass and plants should be done outside of their breeding seasons.

The developers have also said rain water running off the solar panels will be controlled with gravel-filled ditches, to reduce the risk of flooding.

In response to the council’s concerns about the impact the farm would have on the Green Belt, Mr Tomkins’ planning agent, Nigel Goulding, stated in the latest plans that the solar panels would be screened from nearby footpaths.

“It is located away from the public rights of way and county wildlife sites and should only require the removal of rough grass and weeds,” he added. “In addition, we are proposing timber cladding and a green roof to the required inverter container building so that it blends into the surrounding landscape.”

The Corporation of London, which owns Epping Forest, slammed Mr Tomkins’ original application, fearing the impact on birds such as skylarks and the look of the Green Belt, but it declined to comment this time.

John Wood, an environmental campaigner from Buckhurst Hill who supports the application, said: “We’re not just talking about this particular solar park.

“This could be the spearhead for many other applications.”

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Comments (2)

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11:09am Fri 9 Dec 11

mdj says...

'“This could be the spearhead for many other applications.”
Which shows, sadly, how easily Green idealism can be conned by those hungry for profit- the profit in this case coming from taxpayer subsidy and the bills of other energy users. 'Experts' are always available for hire, to tell people what you want them to hear.Would Mr Thompson touch this project without the promise of subsidy? The question answers itself. How long will this land be protected from further development once it is carpeted with industrial machinery? The experts' next fee would be earned by persuading the planners that the land was now 'brownfield', and fit for building on, and the panels would go to landfill.
Waltham Forest recently for once had the wisdom to step back from a damaging development such as this, when the subsidy terms were (rightly) modified. But at least their plan was to put the panels on to roofs, which does not sterilise usable land from other purposes. In a world hungry for agricultural land, perhaps Mr Thompson should sell his portion to someone able to put it to a proper purpose.
'“This could be the spearhead for many other applications.” Which shows, sadly, how easily Green idealism can be conned by those hungry for profit- the profit in this case coming from taxpayer subsidy and the bills of other energy users. 'Experts' are always available for hire, to tell people what you want them to hear.Would Mr Thompson touch this project without the promise of subsidy? The question answers itself. How long will this land be protected from further development once it is carpeted with industrial machinery? The experts' next fee would be earned by persuading the planners that the land was now 'brownfield', and fit for building on, and the panels would go to landfill. Waltham Forest recently for once had the wisdom to step back from a damaging development such as this, when the subsidy terms were (rightly) modified. But at least their plan was to put the panels on to roofs, which does not sterilise usable land from other purposes. In a world hungry for agricultural land, perhaps Mr Thompson should sell his portion to someone able to put it to a proper purpose. mdj

3:36pm Mon 19 Dec 11

Bernard 87 says...

Completely agree with Mjd. If you own a farm there are limited uses for the land outside of farming. If Mr Tomkins wanted build a solar farm why did he not buy brownfield land for this purpose?

If this plan goes ahead then in years to come the land will be built on.

The Guardian should also report that this is in Sewardstone - a semi rural village - which makes this plan seem even more silly.
Completely agree with Mjd. If you own a farm there are limited uses for the land outside of farming. If Mr Tomkins wanted build a solar farm why did he not buy brownfield land for this purpose? If this plan goes ahead then in years to come the land will be built on. The Guardian should also report that this is in Sewardstone - a semi rural village - which makes this plan seem even more silly. Bernard 87

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