Residents outraged as planning application submitted for 147-acre solar farm near Crimscote
Outraged residents have formed a campaign group to oppose the building of a large solar farm on picturesque countryside south of Stratford.
A planning application has been submitted to Stratford District Council to establish a 147-acre solar farm on agricultural land between Ilmington, Crimscote and Wimpstone.
In its proposal, Regener8 Power Limited says it wants to build a 48MWp solar farm and battery storage facility which it says will generate renewable electricity to meet the needs of 15,670 homes every year. It reckons on an annual saving of 25,900 tonnes of CO2 by displacing use of fossil fuels.
However, residents are adamant that the solar farm would blight the countryside and not necessarily bring the green dividends promised.
“We are all totally in favour of green energy and solar is an important part of the mix,” said Richard Gotch, who has lived in Crimscote for 11 years and is coordinating the opposition group. “But that shouldn’t be an excuse to industrialise our countryside or to turn a blind eye to the huge CO2 footprint caused by importing food.
“Other countries have shown that there are many places to site solar power generation that are less damaging to the planet.”
Among those to voice opposition to the plans is the Campaign to Protect Rural England. It points out that the proposed site is on good agricultural land and that it is close to another solar farm at Radbrook Pastures. But CPRE’s primary concern is that it would be an eyesore and contrary to the Local Plan, which says that the landscape character should not be impacted upon by developments.
CPRE said: “The development would be widely visible, not least from Meon Hill, a very obvious discrepancy in the middle of open fields… If this application was allowed, so surely others would follow in its wake until the landscape was disfigured.”
Farmers Jon and Tracey Cowper, whose land adjoins the site, are very much in favour of green energy – they have solar panels on the roofs of their barn, a biomass boiler and ground source heating. However, they are adamant the solar farm is clearly more of a commercial venture rather than a green one.
“It will be sacrilege to industrialise the land which grows us food when there are plenty of brown field and industrial sites that could be used,” said Tracey, who is also concerned about the views from their farmhouse. “If this goes ahead we will be looking straight over the 147-acre site. No amount of landscaping will conceal the solar panels despite what the glint and glare study says in the application.”
A particularly source of grief among campaigners is about construction traffic.
As they gathered for the Herald photograph on the narrow one-lane bridge that crosses the Stour river at Wimpstone, they said that after being told traffic would be minimal they were shocked that a consultant’s report suggested construction would actually involve 11,268 two-way journeys, including HGVs, over a six-month period, and that no provision had been made for road repairs.
“The way we have been misled on the number of extra lorries pounding through our villages is one of the factors that has shaken people’s trust in this particular scheme,” said Richard.
Campaigners are calling on others to have their say via the SDC e-planning portal, on application reference 21/02017/FUL, before 7th September.
Regener8 did not respond to a Herald request for comment.