PLANS to build a massive solar farm in north Essex have been knocked back six months by the discovery of a protected species.

Lightsource wants to put almost 16,000 solar panels on fields at Barn Farm, south of the B1352 Harwich Road.

But now the company have withdrawn their plans after great crested newts were found within 2km of the site.

Lightsource has been asked to carry out surveys which would determine if there are any present on the site.

However these surveys can only be carried out between March and May.

A spokesman for Lightsource said: “With regard to our Barn Farm application, despite providing extensive evidence that by adopting precautionary construction methods the development of a solar farm at this location would not present a risk to Great Crested Newts, the council has required the undertaking of Great Crested Newt surveys to establish whether any are present on the site.

“These surveys can only be undertaken between mid-March and mid-May, and therefore we have withdrawn the application until such time as these surveys can be completed.”

The developer intends to submit a fresh application once the survey has been carried out.

Great Crested Newts are a European Protected Species and are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

The Barn Farm site is the size of four football pitches and big enough to power more than 1,100 homes.

Lightsource said its scheme would save more than two million tonnes of CO2 emissions being pumped into the atmosphere – the equivalent of removing 473 cars from the road each year.

The multi-million-pound facility was expected to generate electricity for more than 30 years.

Last month Vogt Solar’s sun farm at Wix Lodge was given the go-ahead by Tendring Council.

Plans for a third solar farm have also been submitted by Hive Energy for land at Green Farm off Oakley Road, between Wix and Bradfield.