Campaigners at Solar Farm site

Article by Matthew Porter: Building work is starting on a huge solar farm which could power 3,600 homes in Billericay.

Developer MS Power Projects will use farmland the size of 33 football pitches after being granted permission to keep solar panels on the site for the next 26 years.

Planning permission was granted last year after opposition Labour and Ukip councillors controversially voted plans through, despite Tory attempts to block the scheme.

Under the terms of the planning agreement, MS Power must install the panels at Outwood Farm, in Outwood Farm Road, by March 31 at the latest.

The applicant is seeking temporary permission to use a nearby grain store for storage for the duration of the installation work.

They claim using the store will help cut down on traffic disruption for neighbours.

In a statement to council planners, agents Whirledge and Nott said

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Whirledge and Nott"]By being able to use the building as a safe secure compound there will be significantly fewer movements of contractor’s machinery and equipment to the site on a daily basis. If the contractors have to use their existing depot, some distance from the site, daily movements along Outwood Farm Road and surrounding rural lanes will be increased.[/quote]

The four fields are designated as green belt land for planning purposes and 70 residents wrote objection letters calling for the land to be preserved ahead of last November’s planning ruling.

Andrew Schrader, councillor for Billericay East, claimed the site would bring “no employment to the area”.

He added: “I can’t see it has any great benefits.”

Although the nearest homes are hundreds of metres away, objectors claim the fields are a popular walking route for neighbours.

But Labour and Ukip councillors argued the solar farm, which could power as many as 3,600 homes, would benefit Billericay and help Basildon Council meets its renewable energy targets.

Read original article by Matthew Porter, The Echo

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