Sun rises again on council solar farm at Lakenheath

Could Forest Heath soon own an installation like this to relieve cost cutting?
Could Forest Heath soon own an installation like this to relieve cost cutting?

The plan for a council owned solar power farm in Forest Heath may go ahead after all.

The district council first looked at investing in the 12 mega-Watt farm at Toggam Farm in Newfen Gravel Drove, Lakenheath, last summer but in September announced the idea had been dropped.

Location plan for the Toggam Farm solar farm near Lakenheath ANL-160604-154443001

Location plan for the Toggam Farm solar farm near Lakenheath ANL-160604-154443001

However, their commercial partners Greenheath carried on with the development alone.

In September the council said ‘due diligence’ legal, financial and commercial checks it had done on the site had revealed issues around the site that it feared could not be resolved in time to meet the March 31, 2016 completion deadline to gain ‘crucial Government funding’.

But its continued interest in the plan was revealed by Lakenheath councillor Colin Noble, writing in a parish newsletter about traffic disruption in the village caused by cable laying for the installation.

He wrote: “The cable comes from a new solar energy farm that is being developed on behalf of Forest Heath District Council and profits from this will help FHDC keep our council tax as low as possible.”

It is understood that Greenheath returned to Forest Heath with the proposal that the company would build it and, if it made the March 31 deadline and got funding, the council would look again at taking it over, complete. That went before Forest Heath’s Cabinet in October

On Wednesday the council confirmed it was back in the market for solar.

A spokesman said: “The council’s £14.4 million investment is subject to a variety of commercial conditions which seek to protect the interests of the taxpayer.

“This means that completion of the purchase will only take effect once, and only if, those conditions have been met, leaving the development risk with the current owners [Greenheath].”

Cllr Stephen Edwards, Forest Heath cabinet member for resources and performance, said cuts in Government funding were threatening services and he added: “That means, that we, as a council, are acting more commercially to generate income that will pay for these services – and the potential from the solar farm is huge.

“Capital funding cannot be spent on providing day to day services but by investing it wisely we can create a significant income that will pay towards these.”