Protesters’ glee as energy park bid faces delays

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Protesters believe they have scored a notable victory after heritage concerns stopped plans to create an energy park on farmland outside Peterborough securing the go ahead.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Peterborough Town Hall on Monday to voice their objection to the scheme, before piling in to a planning meeting where the application for the first solar farm at Morris Fen at Thorney was adjourned until a later date.

Protesters gather outside Peterborough Town Hall to rally against the planned energy park at Morris Fen

Protesters gather outside Peterborough Town Hall to rally against the planned energy park at Morris Fen

Peterborough City Council officers had originally recommended the venture, which is a council devised scheme, be approved.

But after concerns were raised by English Heritage, that recommendation was changed to a deferral, which was approved by councillors on the committee.

Council bosses say it is difficult to say how long the surveys will take as the timescale depends on what, if any, artefacts are found, but they have stressed that costs for potential delays have been factored in to the plans.

There were loud and lengthy cheers from the protesters as the planning committee voted unanimously to defer the bid following a letter from English Heritage requesting further archaeological work to look for Bronze Age artefacts.

And a further hurdle for the scheme also emerged last week when the council confirmed it had received a letter from the secretary of state Eric Pickles warning that he will call in the plans if they were to be approved.

The Morris Fen application is one of three proposed sites for the energy park - the other two, America’s Farm and Newborough - will be considered in the coming months.

Councillor Marco Cereste, the council leader, said: “I’m disappointed with the decision. I am interested in the money that this scheme can generate which will secure key services in the city.”

Adrian Smith, a spokesman for the council, added: “The timescale for the archaeological work is difficult to determine, it depends what is found at the sites and the scale of trenching works English Heritage want to carry out. We have always considered potential delays to the scheme and these have been factored into the plans.”

Protesters claim that the delays and the threat of a call in by central government could scupper the plans.

Mike Greene, of the Newborough Landscape Protection Group, said: “A lot of people are going home happy - but it’s not over yet. I have said all along that delays could throw a massive spanner into the bid. What is significant is that people in power, like Eric Pickles, are starting to take notice of what is going on, we are seeing serious obstacles starting to emerge.”

Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson added: “I hope that the council gets the message that it is time to look at alternative ideas.”

Early investigations into the historical background of land in and around the proposed energy park sites revealed sections of raised ground which could be Bronze Age barrows - a term for burial sites from the ancient era.

Eminent archaeologist Francis Pryor has previously stated that he believes a number of Bronze Age artefacts could also be buried beneath the land.

Heritage concerns stop wind turbine

A separate bid to install a wind turbine on farmland near Peterborough has been turned down because the site is close to Bronze Age heritage spot Flag Fen.

Suffolk-based Mosscliff Environmental had applied to Peterborough City Council to build one 50KW wind turbine of 36.4metres high at Glinton Road, Milking Nook, Newborough.

But a council spokeswoman said the plans had been rejected over concerns the turbine was too close to nearby Bronze Age burial mounds and might also affect Ministry of Defence radar systems.

A council statement read: “Two Bronze Age burial mounds are located within 1km of the proposed development. The proposal has not adequately addressed the significance of these two monuments and the degree of harm caused to their significance.”

“The development would unacceptably affect Ministry of Defence radar systems to the degree that it would not be possible to provide a safe and expeditious air traffic service to military and non-military aircraft in the area. The Ministry of Defence has advised that the applicant has failed to prove that the proposal would no adverse affects on aviation interests.

Nobody from Mosscliff Environmental was available to comment. The firm has six months to lodge an appeal over the decision.