Campaigners debate plan for a solar farm in Overton

Basingstoke Gazette: Campaigners debate plan for a solar farm in Overton Campaigners debate plan for a solar farm in Overton

CAMPAIGNERS protesting against plans to build a solar farm in Overton say the location is inappropriate and too close to houses.

Residents from Court Drove gave their views at Overton Parish Council meeting, ahead of a talk by Luminous Energy and Belectric, which want to jointly develop the site.

Debra Rolfe, whose house in Court Drove overlooks the site, at Lordsfield Plantation, said Luminous Energy claims the farm would be concealed from nearby houses.

She met with Jolyon Orchard, director of Luminous Energy, the night before the council meeting, and said: “I asked him about screening and how 3.5metre- high panels could be concealed from us, and he replied that they couldn’t.

“He openly admitted that any hedges planted would be low, and take many years to grow, and would be insufficient.”

She added that the documents sent to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, showing that the site is not visible anywhere in Overton, were a “complete misrepresentation of the truth.”

Mrs Rolfe pointed out that the site is Grade 3a agricultural land, which has been rejected for solar farm use by other councils.

Chris Chessell, also from Court Drove, said: “We make full use of the wonderful countryside and are terrified at the prospect of these panels, security fencing, CCTV cameras, etc blighting the beautiful landscape.”

Mr Orchard told the meeting that a planning application would be submitted in February, with the hope of constructing the site between July and September.

Raoul Tufnell, development planning manager for Balectric, maintained the 6.3 hectare site is “well screened” and would produce enough electricity for 995 homes per year, preventing around 1,412 tons of CO2 emissions.

He added: “There are no elevated positions in Overton from which you would experience glare.”

Councillor Peter Baker asked Mr Tufnell if he was aware that Stone Curlews were reportedly nesting on the land.

James Crosbie-Dawson, who owns the field, reported in a local magazine that the endangered birds had set up home on his farm.

Cllr Baker said: “Your expensive consultation and preparation will come to nought if the Stone Curlews are on that site.” Mr Tufnell responded: “We are aware of the risk.”

Residents also questioned why the energy companies had not considered an alternative site next to Overton’s sewage works, which would be away from houses. Mr Tufnell said the site was not suitable because it was not close enough to the National Grid.

But residents disagreed and accused the companies of not using the alternative site because it would cost money to flatten it out.

Mrs Chessell said: “You are putting commercial concerns above my personal family interests and those of the village. Being next to sewage works is better than being on a greenfield site next to my home.”

Luminous Energy and Balectric are holding a public consultation on February 3 at Overton Community Centre, between 5pm and 8pm. Councillors asked if the time could be extended to 3pm until 9pm.

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