VILLAGERS were given a close-up view of the pros and cons of building a 6.2-hectare solar farm on a field in Overton.

Representatives from Belectric and Luminous Energy, the two companies behind the proposals, held a public exhibition at Overton Community Centre on Monday.

Villagers heard how they may be able to invest in the solar farm, at land adjoining Lordsfield Plantation, and that a community benefit fund would be set up, possibly to support Lordsfield Swimming Pool, at Overton Primary School.

The companies intend to submit a planning application for a 3.34 megawatt-peak solar farm, which would comprise a series of ground-mounted solar panel arrays within the field, which is currently used for arable farming.

It would generate approximately 3,284MWh per year – enough renewable electricity for 995 homes.

Belectric and Luminous Energy claim solar farms are beneficial to wildlife and can provide a protected habitat for a wide variety of species.

However, campaigners against the proposals have pointed out that the owner of the field, James Crosbie-Dawson, has previously reported in parish magazines that various protected species are nesting on the site, including Stone Curlews.

David Bryson, director of Luminous Energy, said: “We have had an ecological survey and there’s no evidence of protected species of birds on the site.”

He added that the companies are looking at installing bee hives or using the land to graze herds of sheep.

John Pritchard, from The Green, in Overton, said: “I like it. I think it’s a good position in the village and it sends the right message to the community.”

The 37-year-old father-of-two is the new chairman of Lordsfield Swim-ming Club, and welcomed the idea of the solar farm offering financial benefit to the club.

Alan Stevens, 58, of Bridge Street, was also impressed with the plans. The father-of-one transport scientist, said: “So far I’m pro solar – we have panels ourselves. I like the idea of green energy. I have seen them before and I don’t think they are especially intrusive. I might even buy shares!”

A group of residents who oppose the plans set up a stand in an adjacent room at the community centre to present their alternative views.

Chris Chessell’s home in Court Drove overlooks the field. The 48-year-old mother-of-two, who is an accountant, said: “We are here to give the community an alternative view. We think it’s important that everyone has a considered opinion. We are not happy about it.

“We don’t think that a development such as this should be on the soft edge of the village. We are not against renewable energy as such but not on arable land on a greenfield site. The panels are ridicu- lously high at 3.5metres.”

The two companies are expected to put in a planning application to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council in the near future.