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Solar farm capable of generating power for 14,200 homes approved for South Cambridgeshire countryside

A solar farm capable of generating enough power for about 14,200 homes has been given planning permission by South Cambridgeshire District Council.

Statkraft, which is Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy, will create the 50MW Stargoose Solar Energy Farm on land at the Childerley Estate.

The plans, approved by councillors on April 13, also include batteries for energy storage.

Stargoose solar energy farm plan at Childerley Farm
Stargoose solar energy farm plan at Childerley Farm

Amid concerns that solar farms are industrialising the countryside, Statkraft says it will carry out work to enhance plant, animal and insect populations, including 10 hectares of new meadow grassland and more than 3.5 hectares of woodland and new or restored hedgerow.

Based on Natural England’s calculation of impact on local ecology and habitats, the company says its scheme will deliver an estimated 141 per cent biodiversity net gain.

Nearly 50 bird boxes and five new hedgehog homes are planned, along with plots to encourage skylark breeding and nesting.

Councillors were told the solar farm will cover approximately 80 hectares (198 acres) of grades 2, 3a and 3b agricultural land east of Battlegate Road and north of Childerley Hall, which lies north of the A428 between Knapwell and Dry Drayton.

Permission was sought for a 37-year period, after which the company will decommission the solar farm and return the land to arable agricultural use.

A planning officer’s report noted that there would be “some limited visual impacts”, mitigated by landscaping, and while there would be a loss of good farming land, there were “no better alternative sites close to the grid connection”.

The report recommended approval, stating: “The proposed development would provide renewable energy for a considerable number of homes which would make an important contribution towards climate change objectives.”

A solar farm
A solar farm

Dry Drayton Parish Council supported the plans, but voiced concern about the possibility of the solar farm being extended in future - a point echoed by Bar Hill Parish Council.

There were some objections from residents neighbouring the site, who pointed to the impact on the countryside and the loss of agricultural land and the potential to set a precedent for more schemes.

However, eight district councillors backed the plans, with one abstaining.

Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins (Lib Dem, Caldecote) said: “It’s a good way for us to increase our energy generation and it will be good for Childerley Farm.”

Afterwards, Gareth Hawkins, from Statkraft, said: “We’re thrilled that the planning committee at South Cambridgeshire recognised this fantastic opportunity to contribute to the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy supply and approved the Stargoose Solar Energy Farm today.

“We’re particularly proud of the contribution that the solar energy farm will be making to wildlife, including fantastic biodiversity net gain on the site which vastly exceeds the local targets of 20 per cent.

“Also, as a result of today’s approval, we hope to offer construction employment opportunities for local people, and investment will be generated for the local community and environmental projects.”

Statkraft intends to deploy 600MW of renewable projects in the UK by 2025 amid the drive towards net zero.

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Solar farm proposed in South Cambridgeshire

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