Massive Purleigh solar farm could be refused due to protected Skylark

By Piers Meyler - Local Democracy Reporter

11th Jun 2024 | Local News

A field just off Hackman's lane, nearby to the proposed development [left], a Skylark [right]. (Photo: Google Streetview/ Stock Image)
A field just off Hackman's lane, nearby to the proposed development [left], a Skylark [right]. (Photo: Google Streetview/ Stock Image)

A solar farm planned on land home to the protected skylark in Maldon should be refused given its close proximity to neighbouring properties and the potential harm to wildlife, a parish council has said.

Approximately 33 hectares of arable land to the west of Hackmans Lane near Woodham Ferrers are being earmarked for a solar farm.

Purleigh Parish Council has said the development at Prentice Farm, Purleigh is too close to neighbouring properties in Hackmans Lane and will potentially harm wildlife – including protected species.

It said: "The application does not adequately address the potential harm to wildlife, including protected species, given that it is adjacent to ancient woodlands, namely Great Wood, Squeaking Gate Wood, Round Wood and New England Wood."

Anglo Renewables Ltd, behind the proposed scheme, proposes 31.9 hectares of flowering meadow grassland on site which will it says will be enhanced to create "a species diverse neutral grassland".

An ecology report adds hedgerows and trees on site are considered suitable for supporting a range of lowland farmland bird species for foraging and nesting.

A total of 46 species were recorded across the 2023 Breeding Bird Survey including skylark which based upon the numbers and locations the birds were observed were considered to be potentially nesting on site.

The report says the proposed development will result in the loss of open arable fields and hedgerows which have been shown to support a single skylark on site.

However, it adds as the wider landscape beyond the site supports large areas of arable, grassland and hedgerows which provides good skylark breeding and foraging habitat, the loss of arable habitat resulting from the development "is considered to be minor and unlikely to have a significant impact upon the local skylark population".

It said: "Skylark were recorded during the survey within the adjacent fields, wider habitats are considered to have potential to absorb any displaced birds based on the optimal surrounding habitat."

John Buchanan, Local naturalist and author of "Wildlife of Maldon" said in representations to the application said too much land is now being given over to these solar farms instead of directing developers of new housing etc to install panels on roofs.

He added: "Agricultural land needs to be maintained for arable crops to maintain long term food security. Bad weather over the last year means that productivity over the next harvest will be a big issue. With climate change disrupting weather patterns and leading to increased rain, things are likely to only get worse."


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