A GERMAN green energy giant has won the first round of its battle to build Britain’s biggest solar farm in the Test Valley countryside.
In a shock move, borough councillors went against planning officers’ advice and backed Kronos Solar Projects’ 225,456 solar panel scheme on a 200-acre site at Eveley Farm, between Broughton and Houghton.
However, the borough’s planning control committee will have the final say because the southern area members’ decision was contrary to officers’ recommendations.
Officers fear the project involving farmland, owned by Test Valley councillor Daniel Busk, will have an unacceptable impact on the character of the area because of its size.
Protesters and supporters of the project battled it out to win over councillors at Tuesday’s meeting. Parish chiefs at both Broughton and Houghton were opposed to the proposed solar farm which is expected to produce 35Mw of electricity annually.
Broughton Parish Council chairman Tim Jenner, who spoke on behalf of both authorities, said there was a feeling in Broughton that “a small solar farm” would be acceptable, but not one on the scale that is proposed.
Appealing for the scheme to be rejected, Alan Josling, founder of Broughton Against Kronos Solar, claimed the proposed two metre-high wire boundary fence around the site would be an “eyesore”, and likened it to a “prison camp”.
Group chairman Roy Franks warned that the solar farm would have an “adverse impact” on the landscape.
Broughton resident Dick Pugh was worried about what would happen to the solar farm’s infrastructure when the 25-year use of the site ended.
One of about 250 supporters of the Kronos scheme, Steve Tidy, from Broughton Pro Solar, said that the green energy produced at the site would produce enough electricity to power 12,500 homes in the Test Valley.
“There are a significant number of residents in Broughton that support this,” said Mr Tidy. “It may be large but it’s a small price to pay for clean electricity and is something to celebrate.”
Kronos Solar’s managing director, Alexander Arcache, said that there were few suitable sites available in Hampshire for a scheme as big as the Houghton development.
Some councillors, including Alison Finlay, Tony Ward, Nigel Anderdon and Ian Hibberd, were worried about the impact the solar panels could have on the countryside and the popular Danebury Ring Iron Age Fort tourist attraction.
“I support green energy but I feel that this proposal is far too big,” said Cllr Hibberd.
But most concluded that the scheme would be beneficial to the environment and would contribute to reducing carbon emissions and help to tackle climate change.
North Baddesley member Cllr Steve Cosier said: “We should be seeking alternatives to fossil fuels and this will help meet carbon targets and supply electricity that we all use. The solar farm could be successfully integrated into the landscape and would be the size of 108 football pitches. We have got to make a stand here because my children and grandchildren might benefit from this in 25 years’ time.”
Councillors voted 10 to eight in favour of the scheme.