The UK’s largest-ever solar farm has been given permission to be built on farmland near Chelmsford by the Government.

Longfield Solar Farm, near Terling, is set to be built across approximately 380 hectares of intensive arable farmland and will have the potential to generate enough electricity to meet four times the energy needs of all the new homes planned for Chelmsford in the next 13 years, with the capability to power around 60,000 homes.

The joint venture between EDF Renewables and Padero Solar, which is classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, involves a new solar photovoltaic array generating station, co-located with battery storage, together with grid connection infrastructure.

The generating capacity will be up to 500MW.

Energy security secretary Grant Shapps said: “The UK already has enough solar power installed to power four million homes, and this new development of Longfield, the UK’s largest capacity consented solar farm, will help ensure we fully harness the power of the sun and boost our energy security.

“With a capacity to power tens of thousands of homes, Longfield will help deliver cheaper energy for consumers and businesses and create long-term, high-quality jobs of the future.”

But the plans have been criticised over losing high-quality agricultural land that campaigners say would damage biodiversity and remove high-quality farming land capable of producing thousands of tonnes of grain.

However, David Wagstaff, deputy director of energy infrastructure planning at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, directed by the Secretary of State, said: “The examining authority considers the proposed development would result in a number of public benefits.

“The examining authority acknowledges that both the designated and draft National Policy Statements make clear that there is an urgent need for additional electricity generating capacity, and concludes that the proposed development would support the growth of renewable energy, contribute to energy security, network resilience and towards a secure, flexible energy supply, and would make a meaningful contribution to the UK’s transition to low carbon energy generation.”

The Planning Inspectorate’s Paul Morrison said: “The Planning Inspectorate has now examined more than 100 nationally significant infrastructure projects since the Planning Act 2008 process was introduced, ensuring local communities have had the opportunity of being involved in the examination of projects that may affect them.

“Local people, the local authority and other interested parties were able to participate in this examination. The Examining Authority listened and gave full consideration to all local views and the evidence gathered during the Examination before making its recommendation to the Secretary of State.”

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