New solar farm planned for green belt land on Basildon/Rochford border

A solar farm the size of roughly 120 football pitches which would provide enough power for over 12,000 family homes has been proposed for the Essex green belt.

An application by Enso Green Holdings J Limited for the 119.58 Hectare site, which crosses the district boundaries of Basildon and Rochford, has been submitted to Basildon Borough Council.

Solar panels at the Burstead Solar Farm would be commissioned over seven fields in Barleylands Road, with the site being cut in two by the A129, and then decommissioned after 40 years.

According to a planning statement, its 49.9 Megawatt output would displace 10,402 tonnes of CO2 each year, the equivalent of 3,406 fewer cars on the roads, and provide the annual electrical needs of approximately 12,300 family homes.

Additionally, a landscape and visual assessment submitted alongside the application said the proposed development would be discrete, despite its green belt setting.

A section reads: “Overall it is considered that the effect of the proposed development would not bring about an unacceptable harm to the visual amenity of the wider landscape.

“On balance, it is considered that the proposed development would result in acceptable effects on the character of the local landscape and visual amenity with the proposed mitigation measures in place.

“The character of the local landscape and its underlying intensive agricultural, rural and settled character would prevail and would not be intrinsically changed so as to lose its fundamental identity with the proposed solar farm development in place.”

According to a design and access statement, potential sites for solar farms such as this are required to be near to National Grid substations with spare connection capacity.

The Burstead Solar Farm would connect the National Grid Rayleigh Substation via underground cables, where the renewable energy generated will be exported.

Great Burstead is north of the site while Noak Hill Road lies to the west. Industrial units at Gurnards Farm are immediately west of the eastern parcel of the site and the Barleylands recycling centre lies to the south.

According to the design and access statement, the site, which is currently used for agriculture, would be returned to its original use after being decommissioned in 40 years.

The UK government has a national target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Basildon Council has committed to a target of net zero emissions from its own operations by 2030, and across the borough by 2050, according to its website.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter