Thank you for taking the time to visit our website about our plans for East Park Energy, a proposed solar farm and energy storage scheme.
This website will be the home for all information about the scheme and where you will be able to find the latest information on our proposed application as the plans are progressed.
East Park Energy Project is a new solar and energy storage project that is proposed to the north west of St Neots, straddling the administrative boundary of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
The solar panels would generate electricity for export to the National Grid, whilst the inclusion of energy storage allows for more efficient use of the solar panels and means electricity can be stored at times of low demand and released back when it is most needed. It also helps to provide grid stability services to National Grid when the solar farm is not operating, such as at night. Our plans will also encompass a suite of environmental mitigation and biodiversity enhancement measures to provide a huge boost to local wildlife.
The project will be capable of exporting up to 400MW of electricity to the National Grid and is therefore considered to be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
Due to the capacity of the solar and energy storage park exceeding 50MW, the project is classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
The development consenting regime for NSIPs comes under the Planning Act 2008 and the application process is known as the Development Consent Order (DCO). DCO applications must be made to the Planning Inspectorate who in the case of energy related development acts on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Any final consent award is granted by the Secretary of State for BEIS.
DCO applications cannot be determined by the local authority, although the local authorities are involved throughout and maintain an important role during the DCO application process. The local authority is the responsible planning authority post-consent of the project.
East Park Energy is a new solar farm and energy storage scheme that is proposed to the north-west of St Neots, straddling the administrative boundary of Bedford and Huntingdonshire.
The scheme will connect to the National Grid at the existing substation at Eaton Socon. The solar panels would generate electricity for export to the National Grid, whilst the inclusion of battery storage allows for more efficient use of the solar panels and means electricity can be stored at times of low demand and released back when it is most needed. It also helps to provide grid stability services to National Grid when the solar farm is not operating, such as at night. Our plans will also encompass a suite of environmental mitigation and biodiversity enhancement measures to provide a huge boost to local wildlife, with an biodiversity net gain for the local area, going well beyond minimum Government requirements.
The scheme aims to export up to 400MW of power to the National Grid, ensuring a sustainable energy source for approximately 108,000 households — surpassing the total number in Bedford. As the scheme will exceed 50MW of energy generation, it makes it a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) and RNA Energy will be required to submit an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero.
East Park Energy is not connected with any solar farms that already exist or are proposed within the area.
Boost the local economy through increased employment opportunities arising from both the construction and operation of the scheme.
Export up to 400MW of low carbon electricity to the National Grid, at Eaton Socon Substation, providing enough renewable energy to supply approx. 108,000 homes — surpassing the total number in Bedford.
Deliver the East Park Legacy Fund which will help support the community transition to Net Zero.
More than double the existing solar energy generation in Bedford Borough and Huntingdonshire District.
Deliver a significant biodiversity net gain for the local area, going well beyond minimum Government requirements by enhancing the local environment and providing diverse habitats that will create new, resilient ecological networks.
Provide a stable, secure, and low-cost energy supply which will bring numerous benefits for the wider UK economy.
Boost the UK’s renewable energy supply and contribute towards the transition to Net Zero.
What we can offer:
RNA Energy is fully committed to supporting Net Zero initiatives locally, and through our East Park Legacy Fund we will support the community transition to Net Zero, likely in the form of grants that will be made available to community groups and facilities, public services, and local homeowners. The delivery of the East Park Legacy Fund is something we will discuss with the local communities to understand how it can best support Net Zero initiatives at a local level, but at this stage we would like to discuss the current options to understand your thoughts and priorities.
Welcome to our virtual exhibition! Here you can have a look through our information banners to find out more about our plans. Click on the numbers to open the boards and find out more.
The UK Government is proposing a very significant change in the way the UK meets its energy needs. In 2019, the Government committed the country to the achievement of ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050 in order to help mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
Following this commitment, the Government published its ‘Net Zero Strategy’ in October 2021 which sets out how this can be achieved. A critical element of the strategy is a move away from traditional energy generation (such as fossil fuel power stations) to cheap, clean, and renewable sources of electricity in the UK. This includes increased amounts of solar energy and energy storage.
Aside from its contribution to our net-zero target, solar and energy storage technologies can play a vital role in achieving energy security. The UK Government is committed to the delivery of Net Zero. In order to do so it is forecast that up to 70 GW of solar energy is required nationally by 2035. There is currently only approximately 14.6 GW of solar energy installed in the UK and, as such, a step-change is required in the delivery of solar energy across the UK to achieve the 70 GW target.
The East Park Energy development would play a vital role in the achievement of the Government's target. In doing so, it would also more than double the existing solar renewable energy capacity in Bedford Borough and Huntingdonshire District, providing enough renewable energy to supply approximately 108,000 homes — surpassing the total number in Bedford.
Due to the capacity of the solar and energy storage park exceeding 50MW, the scheme is classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
The development consenting regime for NSIPs comes under the Planning Act 2008 and the application process is known as the Development Consent Order (DCO) process. DCO applications in the case of energy related development are made directly to the Secretary of State for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ). DCO applications are not determined by the local authority, although local authorities are involved throughout and maintain an important role during the DCO application process. The local authority is the responsible planning authority, following the grant of a DCO.
RNA Energy is undertaking a non-statutory consultation. This is the beginning of the consultation process where the initial plans are shared with the public and stakeholders so early feedback can be received. Following the non-statutory/initial consultation, RNA Energy will analyse the feedback and make changes to the plans where necessary.
During the pre-application phase, RNA Energy will continue to develop the proposals in consultation with stakeholders and undertake environmental surveys and assessment to reduce the potential impacts of the scheme. A formal, statutory pre-application consultation will then be undertaken in 2024, with the aim of submitting the DCO application in winter 2024/25.
Once the DCO application is submitted and subject to change from the statutory consultation, the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), will decide whether the application meets the standards required to be accepted for examination.
When the application is accepted for examination, in winter 2024/25, members of the public can register with the Planning Inspectorate to become an Interested Party. An Examining Authority (made up of independent inspectors from the Planning Inspectorate) is also appointed at the pre-examination stage, and all Interested Parties will be invited to attend a Preliminary Meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority. The preliminary environmental information will also be published during this period.
The Examining Authority will then carry out an examination and take into account the application and analyse the feedback receive on the plans. Examinations are a public process and primarily a written aspect, where members of the community can get involved. They can last for up to six months, but at the start of this stage the Examining Authority will set deadlines for the submission of written information. Hearings will also take place during the examination period to discuss specific aspects of the application.
Recommendation and Decision
Following the examination period, the Examining Authority will prepare a report on the application to the Secretary of State for DESNZ, which includes a recommendation. The Secretary of State for DESNZ will then make a decision on whether to grant or refuse the development consent.
After the decision has been made by the Secretary of State for DESNZ, there is a six-week period in which the decision can be challenged in the High Court, known as a judicial review.
A comprehensive site selection process was undertaken to identify the most suitable land for East Park Energy. This process considered all land within 15km of the grid connection point at Eaton Socon Substation in terms of agricultural land classification, environmental constraints (including flood risk, landscape, ecology and heritage considerations), planning constraints (including local allocations, existing planning applications and existing NSIPs), land availability, site size, topography and other technical constraints (including location of urban areas, main rivers and major highway infrastructure).
1) Helping achieve Net Zero
The UK Government is committed to the delivery of Net Zero. In order to do so it is forecast that up to 70 GW of solar energy is required nationally by 2035. There is currently only approximately 14.6 GW of solar energy installed in the UK and, as such, a step-change is required in the delivery of solar energy across the UK to achieve the 70 GW target. The East Park Energy development would play a vital role in the achievement of the Government's target.
2) A low-cost renewable energy source
Solar energy is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation. Therefore, delivering more solar energy schemes will help bring down energy prices at a time when consumer costs are soaring. East Park Energy will significantly expand the UK’s domestic energy generation capability, contributing towards our energy security needs and helping to deliver stable energy prices that are independent of international fossil fuel markets.
3) Increasing biodiversity and environmental net gain
The land identified for the site is currently used for arable crops. As such, it is currently a suboptimal location for habitats and local wildlife. East Park Energy will not only make a significant contribution to fighting the global climate emergency, but our aspiration is also to deliver a significant biodiversity net gain for the local area, going well beyond minimum Government requirements, by enhancing the local environment and providing diverse new habitats that will create new, resilient ecological networks.
4) Sustainable employment and economic growth
The construction of the site by East Park Energy will contribute to the local economy through the creation of job opportunities. This influx of construction jobs not only benefits the immediate community but also provides a vital economic boost.
East Park Energy is committed to maintaining a dedicated workforce comprising a minimum of 10 to 16 full-time employees. In alignment with our dedication to community engagement and sustainable growth, RNA Energy will actively collaborate with local educational institutions and government initiatives to facilitate apprenticeships and provide training opportunities for residents in the immediate vicinity. This approach ensures that our operations not only contribute to regional employment but also foster skill development and career prospects within the local community.
During the operational phase the impact on the local road network would be minimal. A scheme of this scale would typically have a small operational workforce of a minimum of 10-16 full time employees on rotation in a shift pattern. As such, only a small number of post-construction vehicle movements would be generated, and this would mainly consist of maintenance vehicles occasionally visiting the site.
East Park Energy's commitment to delivering a dependable, cost-effective energy supply to the UK holds the potential to reduce energy expenses for households and businesses nationwide, thereby contributing to broader economic stability and growth.
5) Community benefits from the East Park Legacy Fund
RNA Energy is also eager to support Net Zero initiatives locally, and through our East Park Legacy Fund we will support the community’s transition to Net Zero, likely in the form of grants that will be made available to community groups and facilities, schools and other public services, and local homeowners.
RNA will hold discussions with the local communities to understand how the fund can be best utilised to support Net Zero initiatives in the local area.
RNA Energy will carry out a detailed Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), which will assess the environmental impact of the East Park Energy development. The scope of the EIA will be agreed with the Planning Inspectorate in advance and the reporting will be provided in an Environmental Statement (ES) which will be submitted with the Development Consent Order (DCO) application.
A draft version of the ES (the Preliminary Environmental Information Report – PEIR), will be made available for review as part of the statutory consultation in 2024, prior to submission of the DCO application.
RNA Energy is dedicated to conducting thorough surveys aimed at comprehensively assessing the existing biodiversity on our sites. These surveys are integral to our commitment to responsible environmental stewardship. We seek to gain deep insights into the unique ecological makeup of each location, allowing us to develop strategies that not only preserve but enhance biodiversity. These efforts are essential to ensuring that our schemes have a minimal ecological footprint and contribute positively to the surrounding environment.
Our ambition at RNA Energy extends beyond the conventional approach of minimal environmental impact. We aspire to achieve a significant biodiversity net gain that will go well beyond minimum Government requirements. This vision will be realised through the implementation of initiatives such as the introduction of vibrant wildflower meadows, the establishment of biodiverse hedgerows, and the creation of thriving habitats where local wildlife can flourish. In doing so, we aim not only to meet but to exceed our ecological responsibilities, leaving a lasting legacy of environmental enrichment for generations to come.
RNA Energy is also working with Rothamsted Research to understand how solar farms can be designed for maximum land use gain across various metrics including CO2 sequestration, soil health, biodiversity, crop/livestock yield, and solar yield. RNA Energy is therefore looking to include new initiatives supported by the research into the proposals for East Park Energy.
RNA Energy places a high priority on limiting noise impacts on the local community and other noise-sensitive areas when designing our solar farms and battery storage schemes. In our commitment to responsible project development, we are acutely aware that solar panels themselves operate silently; however, the inverters and transformers associated with them can emit a low hum during their operation. To address this, we are taking proactive steps.
Firstly, we have initiated baseline noise monitoring in the surrounding area to establish a comprehensive understanding of the background noise levels. Using this data, we are conducting detailed noise modelling to predict the potential noise generated by East Park Energy's operations. This assessment allows us to determine whether any significant noise impacts might arise and informs our design process accordingly, to avoid impacts to people’s property.
We are preparing a preliminary Noise Impact Assessment, which will be part of the Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR). This report will be shared during the statutory consultation phase for the East Park Energy development.
A detailed construction dust and vehicle emissions assessment will be submitted with the DCO application which assesses any likely impacts as a result of the development and will set out mitigation measures required to reduce these impacts to acceptable levels.
Typical mitigation measures to control dust may include water spraying over affected areas, lowering the vehicle speed limit along unsurfaced construction routes and regular site inspections.
There will be no air quality or dust management issues during the operational phase of the development as the scheme would not emit any aerial emission and there will only be limited vehicle movements for maintenance, landscape management and repair.
All built development, including solar panels, transformers and the battery storage facility, is proposed to be located on land wholly within Flood Zone 1 which is defined by the Environment Agency as having the lowest risk of flooding.
A Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) and Drainage Strategy will be prepared and included within the DCO application, which will assess any potential impacts which could occur as a result of the development and propose mitigation to reduce any potential impacts. The Drainage Strategy would include SuDS features suitable for the control of surface water run-off at the site.
After between 1 - 4 years of operating the solar panels will have ‘paid off’ the carbon used in their production. In terms of recycling, it is now possible to recycle around 99% of the component parts of each solar panel and there are a growing number of facilities specialising in solar panel recycling.
Initial assessments will be carried out to identify any known archaeological and cultural heritage features on and around the proposed site.
The full assessment of potential for direct impacts will be informed by non-invasive assessment including a geophysical survey. This will identify any below ground features or anomalies and the need for further evaluation and/or mitigation works, such as trial trenching/evaluation and excavation.
The scope of any further work will be discussed and agreed with the archaeological advisors to Bedford Borough Council and Cambridgeshire County Council.
The results of the geophysical assessment and associated analysis will be presented within the PEIR, and the results of the full archaeological investigation and any associated mitigation will be presented within the ES that will form part of the DCO application.
The independent National Food Strategy Review shows that solar farms do not in any way present a risk to the UK’s food security. Solar farms in the UK currently account for just 0.08% of total land use and this is expected to rise to just 0.5% by 2050 – less than the amount currently used for golf courses.
However, RNA has carefully selected the land which will be used for East Park Energy to ensure it is of the lowest agricultural grade where possible, to ensure any potential impact on local food production is minimal. RNA Energy is working in partnership with Rothamsted Research, and the scheme will explore ways that solar projects can maximise local biodiversity improvements, carbon sequestration, soil health, and agricultural yields.
Additionally, any areas of the site that are currently used for agricultural purposes would only be temporarily transitioned to solar farm development. This would be reversible after the 40 year project life. Moreover, solar panels would only prevent the farming of arable crops, they would not prevent alternative agricultural use, including sheep grazing.
Solar energy generation will further allow farmers to diversify their income and allow British farmers to continue farming.
Solar farms are of a low height, such that they are often not as widely visible as typical residential or employment land uses, or other forms of renewable energy such as wind turbines.
The scheme will affect views at a local level from around the site boundary, and from some nearby properties, footpaths and roads. In the long-term, the impact on some of these views will reduce as our proposed hedgerow and woodland belt improvements establish and reach a height where they ‘screen’ the proposed development.
Photo-realistic visualisations of the scheme will be prepared to help give an understanding of the likely appearance of the solar farm from key viewpoints in the local area. These visualisations will be prepared in advance of the statutory consultation events in 2024.
The greatest potential for highways impacts to occur in connection with a solar development is during the construction phase.
RNA Energy has given consideration to the potential highways effects of the East Park Energy scheme and has devised a proposed access strategy that aims to limit the impact of construction traffic on the local highway network. It is proposed that construction vehicles would access the site from the A1 via the B645. Vehicles would then take the first left onto a private road which provides access to an adjacent existing solar farm, before heading north into East Park Energy site through privately owned land.
This strategy would effectively eliminate the need for vehicles to run through neighbouring villages, including Hail Weston, Staunton Highway, Great Staughton, Little Staughton, Keysoe, Swineshead and Riseley.
During the operational phase, impacts on the road would be minimal. A scheme of this scale would typically have a small operational workforce of a minimum of 10-16 full time employees. As such, only a small number of post-construction vehicle movements would be generated, and this would mainly consist of maintenance vehicles occasionally visiting the site.
The current scheme are not expected to result in the loss of any public right of way, and the current proposals seek to ensure that such routes would be maintained on their current alignment following construction of the East Park Energy development, with suitable buffers between footpaths and the solar development areas.
The only potential effects on the access to existing rights of way would be during the construction phase where it is necessary for them to be crossed by cable corridors. However, such effects would be temporary and could be adequately mitigated through careful management of the construction process.
As this is an initial non-statutory consultation, we are holding three exhibition events within the consultation area. These three venues were selected because they:
However, we appreciate that some people may not be able to attend these events given the location and timings, as such we have a virtual exhibition room which can be accessed via our website alongside an online feedback form for local residents to share their views on the scheme. The materials in the virtual exhibition are the same as the ones we display during our physical exhibition events. We also have a community information line available for people wishing to speak to a member of the team.
We are striving to ensure the local community remain informed and included as we develop the plans for East Park Energy further. As part of this non-statutory consultation, we welcome feedback on how we are consulting so that we can make changes ahead of the statutory consultation which will likely take place in 2024.
The consultation is now closed. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their feedback.
You can still get in touch with the development team by the methods provided below.
Please read the information in our virtual exhibition before answering the following questions.
RNA Energy is dedicated to advancing the development and construction of a diverse portfolio of solar and storage schemes, aimed at providing the UK with affordable, clean, and reliable energy solutions.
The RNA Energy team is renowned for its extensive expertise and unwavering commitment to constructing the clean energy infrastructure required for a net-zero emissions future.
RNA Energy is actively involved in the cultivation of a subsidy-free solar scheme portfolio across the UK. Our site selection process is thorough, taking into account a variety of factors, including the potential environmental benefits and technical feasibility of each location. We prioritise the integration of battery energy storage systems whenever possible to ensure the seamless delivery of energy to the grid during periods of peak demand. This strategic approach prevents the inundation of the grid with solar energy during low-demand periods and minimises the limitation of clean energy.
With our well-established track record as project developers, we specialise in fostering collaborative relationships with landowners and local stakeholders. This collaborative approach enables us to design and deliver scheme that are mutually beneficial for all parties involved.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to find out more information about East Park Energy. You can contact us and find out more by using the details below.
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