Comedian Griff Rhys Jones rages over proposed Suffolk solar farm

British actor and comedian Griff Rhys Jones has strongly opposed plans to build a 38.4 hectare solar farm in Tattingstone, Suffolk.

The comedian, who is a patron of the Stour and Orwell Society (SOS), lives close to the proposed site and described the plans as being “part of a mad series of schemes introduced by a government struggling with an energy policy”, media reports cited.

Plans for the solar farm, which may house up to 80,000 solar panels, have been submitted by the developers Hive Energy to the planning committee at Babergh District Council with a decision yet to be made.

In a letter to the planning committee, SOS called for the committee to reject the application. It described the project as an “industrial-type development” which would disturb the visual impact of the landscape and countryside and highlighted that it would result in the loss of almost 40 hectares of “the very best agricultural land, which has been farmed productively for centuries”.

SOS concluded: “Whilst SOS is not opposed in principle to renewable energy developments, we feel that careful site selection is imperative to ensure that the positive benefits of low carbon forms of energy generation are not outweighed by the negative impacts on the local environment. In this instance, we feel strongly that the site is inappropriate for an industrial-type development and we would therefore urge the council to reject this application.”

In response to the body's criticism, Tim Purbrick, commercial director at Hive Energy, told Solar Power Portal: “We’re making a substantial investment on and off the site, for example, in new hedging. A lot of people have also been talking about the wood to the north of the solar site which is an ancient woodland. The oak trees there are over mature and we need to replenish the wood stock and we are planting at our own expense a significant number of oaks which will form a part of our investment in the solar park.

“Within five to seven years, once the plants have been given time to grow, the majority of the solar park will be hidden from view and that’s just the nature of the way that land lies. Most of it will be screened from view and, of course, agriculture can continue under the panels with sheep grazing or hay taken from between the panels.”

Purbrick added: “It’s going to fantastically improve the biodiversity of that 100 acre site for the next 25 years, which will be great for nature so that’s why all the consulted bodies during our application process are not objecting, I cant say they’re supporting it, but they are not objecting it.”

The decision by the council had been expected yesterday but it has now been delayed for “internal council reasons and they’ve requested more plans”, Purbrick revealed.