Proposals for UK's biggest solar firm overcome first planning hurdle

First published in News

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 gave Kronos Solar Projects the go-ahead for a 225,456- 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 on the application as southern area members’ decision ran contrary to officers recommendations.

Officers feared the project on farmland owned by Test Valley councillor Danny Busk would have an unacceptable impact on the character of the area because of its size.

Opponents and supporters of the scheme battled it out to win over councillors at Tuesday’s meeting.

Broughton and Houghton parish councils both opposed the solar farm which is expected to produce 35Mw of electricity annually, enough to power 12,500 homes.

Broughton chairman Tim Jenner, speaking for both parishes, said there was a feeling in Broughton that “a small solar farm” would be acceptable but not one on the scale proposed.

The founder of Broughton Against Kronos Solar (BAKS), Alan Josling, claimed the proposed two- metre-high wire boundary fence around the site would be an “eyesore” and likened it to a “prison camp.”

Chairman of BAKS, Roy Franks warned that the solar farm would have an “adverse impact” on the landscape.

Broughton resident Dick Pugh was worried about what will happen farm’s infrastructure when the 25-year use of the site came to an end.

“We will still be affected in 30 to 35 years time with the rotting remains of this monstrosity,” warned Mr Pugh.

One of about 250 supporters of Kronos scheme, Steve Tidy, from Broughton Pro Solar, said: “It may be large but it’s a small price to pay for clean electricity and is something to celebrate.”

Kronos Solar’s MD, Alexander Arcache, who came to the meetingsaid that there were few suitable sites available in Hampshire for a scheme as big as the Houghton development.

“There were two brown field sites in the whole of Hampshire that qualified for solar farm use but all had been set up for housing,” said Mr Arcache.

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 and that 200 acres is not acceptable, a smaller one may be,” said Mr Hibberd.

But most concluded that the scheme would be beneficial to the environment and would help cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change.

North Baddesley member 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.”

Deputy borough leader Martin Hatley agreed and commented: “Climate change is already having an impact on trees in Hampshire and we have to do something about it. We have to accept that solar farms exist. They are not so intrusive as wind farms. Solar panels on houses are more visually intrusive and I would prefer to see larger solar farms.”

Councillors voted 10 to 8 in favour of the scheme.

Kronos has solar farms in Cornwall, Wales and the Isle of Wight and it is based in Munich.

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