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Enso Energy Submit a Planning Application

News is starting to spread now that Enso Energy have submitted their planning application for the Bramford Solar Farm.

Earlier today Alpaca Communications (Enso’s PR company) sent out an email to all those who registered for their webinar, and/or who signed up to receive updates via their website.

The application has been submitted to Mid Suffolk District Council, and we expect a duplicate to be submitted to Babergh since the application crosses boundary lines, and it is currently awaiting validation.

Validation is a process where the Local Planning Authority (LPA or “planning department”) check the documents submitted are firstly all present (there are numerous documents that need to be submitted as part of an application), and secondly that the forms have all been filled in properly. Once the application is validated it will be made publicly available online through the LPA’s planning portal.

Changes

As part of the email notification, Enso have announced some changes to their application. At first glance some of these changes are welcome in part, some present more problems, and some don’t seem to resolve anything.

Reduced extent of solar panel area to increase set back distances from adjoining boundaries with a number of residential properties and gardens.
Additional screen planting around residential properties and gardens on the periphery of the Proposed Development.
We welcome the further set back from residential property boundaries, however expect this to be a few metres at most which will be of little impact. However there are still some major concerns regarding the fencing and details of the screening proposed. Plants used for screening can still take several years to grow to the desired height, of which the RHS advised us could be up to 15 years for some species. And this doesn’t reduce the amount of arable farmland that will be taken out of production.

Removal of the proposed construction access track between the northern and southern solar array land parcels.
Amendment to the construction traffic access points, to introduce a generally equal split of HGV movements at the north of the Site and also the south of the Site (previously all construction movements were to access from the north).
Whilst we welcome the removal of the construction access track between the north and south parcels of land for a number of reasons, the new significant amounts of traffic that are consequently planned for Burstall is worrying. Enso originally argued that the roads into Burstall are not suitable for HGVs, which we couldn’t disagree with. So this is a complete u-turn by Enso. Nothing has changed with the roads in Burstall. They are still unsuitable.

Provision of connecting green corridors to enable deer to continue to roam between woodlands in the area and across the Proposed Development.
We don’t see how this will help the deer. The deer cross the open fields during the twilight and night-time hours. And they vary their paths for many reasons, such as changes in food and water availability, rutting/breeding, and hunting pressure including from natural predators such as foxes. Giving the deer a limited number of funnelled routes (along roads and corridors through the development) reduces their ability to travel safely across the land in order to satisfy their various needs.

Avenue of over mature Poplar trees to be removed from roadside between Fields 1 and 2 for safety reasons and re-instatement of species rich native hedgerows.
This one is a little odd. It would be interesting to see what these “safety reasons” are. From local knowledge these trees are all in good strong health, used by spotted woodpeckers amongst other birds, and have become part of the road journey between Somersham and Flowton. The avenue provides a unique much loved landmark at the Flowton/Somersham boundary. These trees, instead of hedgerow, also allow what is one of the most splendid views in Flowton looking out across the Gipping Valley, which was designated a Special Landscape Area under the old Mid Suffolk Local Plan 1998. The plan may be out of date, but the beauty and heritage of the view remains. Hedgerow would eliminate that view of the landscape. We suspect that the only real reason for the removal of these trees is because they are going to cast shadows over their solar panels in field 2, but that isn’t a good enough planning reason to cut them down so now they’re “unsafe”.

Introduction of proposed Nature Areas in both the northern and southern solar arrays to further add to biodiversity in the area.
We are initially unsure about this one and await to see more details. We suspect this may simply be an extension of the wildflower areas into the areas around the residential property that they now aren’t using for panels.

Next Steps

We are currently waiting for the application to be validated. Once this happens the documents will be made available and we will be able to further inspect the proposal and the changes mentioned above. As we work our way through this we will be updating our website and previously published articles with the latest information for you. From the date the application is validated, then there is a minimum of 21 days guaranteed in order to submit objections. Because of the complexity of this application there is likely to be longer, but at the moment that amount of time is akin to the length of a piece of string.

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