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Bramley solar farm would threaten Silchester Roman ruins, says archaeology professor

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THE proposed solar farm between Silchester and Bramley would “substantially harm the setting of one of England’s most important ancient monuments,” according to a professor of archaeology.

Michael Fulford CBE, who is the director of the Silchester Roman Life, Town Life and Environs Iron Age Projects at the University of Reading, said the solar farm – roughly a mile south of the Silchester Roman ruins – would threaten potential future discoveries in the area.

Plans were submitted by Enso Energy last year for the creation of a 200-acre solar farm on agricultural land, capable of powering 17,000 homes.

Where the solar farm would be built (45541739)
Where the solar farm would be built (45541739)

The farm, called Bramley Frith, would be built on six fields on the northeast side of Bramley substation and would operate initially for 40 years.

The plans have since been met by a backlash by local residents, with 97 per cent of the 690 public comments on the planning application opposing the scheme.

Similarly, both Silchester and Bramley Parish Councils objected to the scheme. Although they were in favour of clean, renewable energy, they argued the chosen site was wrong and the development would “engulf” much of the green corridor between the two villages.

Now, Mr Fulford, who was named archaeologist of the year in 2015 by publication Current Archaeology Live! has also come out against the scheme, arguing future discoveries in the areas surrounding the Silchester Roman ruins would be lost.

Three heritage assets have been discovered in the six fields, including a possible Roman villa in the northwest field.

Writing an objection to the application, Mr Fulford said: “Neither the Roman town nor its late prehistoric predecessor existed in a vacuum, but their inhabitants interacted with and depended on the surrounding countryside: farming it for food, burying their dead, exploiting its woodland for fuel, building materials and so on.

“This proposed development threatens our ability over the medium and longer term to advance our knowledge of the landscape context of the unique monument that is Iron Age and Roman Calleva.

“While the development itself may do less than substantial harm to the individual heritage assets which it may affect, its nature, and the very reasonable assumption that continued demand for energy generated in this way will continue for the foreseeable future, means that these assets are effectively lost to future research.”

In planning documents, Enso Energy states it will mitigate against damage to the assets through construction methods.

It has also offered to mount solar panels on the roof of Silchester Primary School and donate £5,000 to the Reading University Archaeological department to help fund ongoing investigations into the Silchester Roman remains.

For more information on the scheme, head to the borough council’s planning portal and enter the reference 20/03403/FUL.

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