Basildon gives green light for 331-acre solar farm cable route

Basildon councillors have granted planning permission for a cabling route to power a proposed solar farm, despite another council rejecting the scheme it is for and an appeal being lodged in its favour.

At a planning committee meeting on September 7, Basildon Council gave the green light for an underground cabling network to be laid, which will connect the prospective 331-acre site to the National Grid.

Although recommended for approval, Thurrock Council rejected plans for the solar farm in June. An appeal has been lodged with the planning inspectorate.

In December 2022, Conservative-led Thurrock Council was effectively left bankrupt after it revealed that it had debts amounting to around £1.3 billion, owing largely to failed investments in solar farms.

The underground cabling will run along land to the south of Marsh Farm, Vange. However, some councillors expressed concerns over the disruption engineering works would cause to the main arterial roads running through the villages of Vange and Fobbing.

Councillor Craig Rimmer (Con, Pitsea South East) said the proposal is “clearly not for the benefit of residents across the borough”.

Councillor Kerry Smith (Ind, Nethermayne) said: “I’m more worried about vulnerable residents than the big buck guys.”

He said that construction vehicles would be “churning up the road” during the 30 weeks in which engineering work would be ongoing and that this could cause remote communities to become isolated as they are only connected to the wider borough via the affected routes of Pound Lane and the B4164 London Road.

Cllr Smith spoke of a “level of deprivation” across Basildon, and said of constituents’ anxieties surrounding possibly being cut off: “I’ve had pensioners on the phone to me crying because they’re worried they can’t get their (food) shopping.”

Other councillors spoke to the merits of approving the scheme, citing the need for green and sustainable energy as an adequate reason for granting planning permission. Councillor Tony Hedley (Con., Billericay West) said a final decision “depends on how we see the future of energy generation”.

“These proposals are going to come thick and fast in the future.”

Councillor Alex Myers (Con, Wickford Castledon), chairing the meeting, reminded those present that concerns over highways access gave the council “no reasons on planning grounds to refuse” the application.

The proposal for underground cabling was granted full planning permission subject to conditions.

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Emma Doyle

Local Democracy Reporter