8:00am Friday 9th December 2011
By Clare Hardy
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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