Suffolk

Plans for Newmarket solar farm the size of '900 football pitches'

solar farm Image copyright Sunnica
Image caption Sunnica wants to create one of the country's largest solar farms near Newmarket

Concerns have been raised about the "sheer scale" of a solar farm earmarked for farmland on the Suffolk-Cambridgeshire border.

Energy firm Sunnica wants to create one of the largest solar farms in the country across three connected sites near Newmarket.

The area spans 900 football pitches and would generate enough electricity to power 100,000 homes, the company said.

The first stage of public consultation into the plans runs until 28 July.

The Sunnica Energy Farm would comprise of three solar farms, each connected to each other and to the National Grid at Burwell substation.

Its generating capacity - 500MW - means it is classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).

NSIPs are major building projects that are managed by the government's Planning Inspectorate - rather than local planning officials.

Image copyright Sunnica
Image caption A map of the proposed three-site solar farm between Soham, Newmarket and Mildenhall

Freckenham resident Jane Leitch said she was "stunned, horrified and shocked at the actual size of it".

"I'm not a NIMBY, I'm all for being green but I feel this is by far too big a plant to put here," she said.

"Even the parish council couldn't tell us where it was going to be or how big it was, I thought, this is a done deal."

Image copyright Sunnica
Image caption A spokesman for Sunnica said animals would still be able to graze on the land

Currently the country's largest solar farm scheme is at Cleve Hill in Kent, which proposes to provide electricity to 91,000 homes and is at application stage.

Sunnica project manager Luke Murray told the BBC the plans were in line with the government's 2050 zero carbon emissions pledge.

"We don't agree the impact of solar will be negative or industrialising," he said.

"We see it as compatible with the established character and the pattern of land use locally.

"We are undertaking a process of consultation at this early stage in order to listen to those concerns, and try to ameliorate them where we can and build that feedback into the design."

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