Huge solar farm proposed near Roman site

The area which could be occupied by a solar farm, near Great Dunham.

The solar farm is proposed to go up on the highlighted area - measuring some 78 hectares. The village of Great Dunham is visible to the north east. - Credit: Google

A solar farm the size of about 108 football pitches is proposed to go up on land next to an area thought to have been settled by Romans.

Some 78 hectares of fields off Palgrave Road, south-west of Great Dunham, near Swaffham, have been earmarked for the development by Low Carbon UK Solar Investment Company Ltd.

Officers at Breckland Council have been liaising with several organisations, including heritage specialists at the county council, to help judge whether an assessment of the solar farm's impact on things like archaeological finds is needed before a planning application is put in. 

The scheme echoes a plot line in the BBC's popular East Anglia-set comedy series Detectorists, where developers secure permission to build a solar farm on fields where ancient artefacts are thought to be buried.

Programme Name: Detectorists series 3 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Lance (TO

The scheme echoes a plot line in the BBC's popular East Anglia-set comedy series Detectorists - Credit: BBC/Channel X/Chris Harris

A planning application has not yet been submitted to the council, but the developer has asked the authority whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) will be needed ahead of that application.

A historic environment officer at Norfolk County Council (NCC), who had been consulted by Breckland on the question, warned: “The proposed development site is situated adjacent to an area of probable Roman settlement, identified by artefacts including a significant number of Roman coins.

“In addition, artefacts of all periods have been found within the proposed development area, with significant concentrations of Roman and Anglo-Saxon material.”

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He said there was a “high potential” of buried archaeological remains on the site, and recommended that an EIA be carried out.

NCC’s ecologists and National Highways both said that one was not needed as far as they were respectively concerned, however, and Breckland’s planning officers ultimately concluded an EIA was not required. 

The vulnerability programme was agreed as Breckland Council set its budget at Elizabeth House in Der

Breckland Council's planning officers concluded that an Environmental Impact Assessment was not needed. - Credit: IAN BURT

In a letter to Breckland council, the developer's agent said that any planning application for the solar farm would include a 'Cultural Heritage Desk-Based Assessment', including consideration of both built heritage and archaeology.

The lack of an EIA requirement also does not rule out the possibility of land surveying being a condition of any future planning permission.

The developer's agent said the solar farm, if built, would respond “to identified need by providing a renewable energy supply that would reduce carbon emissions and assist in establishing a greater diversity of energy sources in the UK”.

They added that a solar farm on the site would “contribute to supporting the local community and economy” and “would not involve complex or potentially hazardous environmental effects”.

Great Dunham Parish Council has arranged for the developers to give a presentation about the plans at the village hall at 8pm on Tuesday, February 1.