Headland has been at the forefront of the renewables sector since the early 2000s when we began working on the first generation of wind farms in Scotland. We now work on renewables projects across the UK, on and offshore. Solar is a new and fast growing sector which we are pleased to add to our capabilities.
Solar developments present a new set of challenges, with a different set of construction techniques and extensive layouts, but potentially less ground disturbance. Vine Farm Solar PV is a large development in Cambridgeshire, for which Headland provided the impact assessment at EIA stage. The site lies in a landscape known for its dispersed Iron Age/Roman settlements and Saxon villages. We also had to consider above ground issues with a WWII airfield, registered parks and medieval moated sites nearby.
Our team of consultants worked closely with the development team (including Landscape Architects, LDA Design) to identify heritage assets early on, weigh up their significance, recognise potential issues and help modify the design to reduce any likely impacts. The development was successfully granted planning permission.
As with many developments, alterations to the construction design occurred following planning being granted, which have implications for managing the archaeological resource. The original design involved minimal disturbance to the archaeology in the area. Although there was no requirement to preserve it in situ (due to the original construction design), the Planning Archaeologist for the area was keen that this should happen. Headland has been working closely with the developer and the Planning Archaeologist to establish a solution which is acceptable to all.
We used a combination of evaluative trial trenching, geophysical survey and examination of aerial photos to establish the core areas of archaeological activity. Once these areas of high potential are identified, and the state of preservation and the importance of the remains are confirmed, it becomes easier to define a series of options for preserving them in situ. Additionally, the evaluation identified areas of lesser potential, where excavating the remains and preserving them by record is more appropriate.
An additional issue on the Vine Farm development has been the presence of unexploded ordnance across the site, due to its location adjacent to a WWII airfield. Two teams of BACTEC staff (Battle Area Clearance, Training, Equipment and Consultancy) conducted clearance across the site, with Headland providing monitoring on the works. The BACTEC staff also had to be present during all trial trenching operations, in case of any UXO discoveries. Whilst this represents an out of the ordinary challenge for conducting excavations, Headland’s staff are well used to working within strict Health and Safety conditions.