DOZENS of people attended a public meeting to air concerns about a proposed solar farm on farmland near Alresford.

Villagers of Bishop's Sutton were worried about the impact of more than 2,000 solar arrays on 55 acres of land in a £12m development.

Most of the 50-strong audience last night agreed that solar farms should be on brownfield or industrial sites and not countryside close to the South Downs National Park.

Parish council chairman Aileen Miller said there were concerns the applicants were exaggerating the benefits.

Anti-wind farm campaigner Douglas Paterson said: “It is still horrendously expensive and is unlikely to provide more than a tiny percentage of our requirements in the next decade.”

But Mark Candlish, of Solar Fields, agents for the Spanish firm Beta Solar, said they were not overstated not least because there were investors to keep happy.

Mr Candlish predicted solar would in ten years be providing a chunk of energy needs.

He said the Bishop’s Sutton site was chosen after the landowner approached them. It was close to a sub-station and was not over-looked by housing.

Resident Martin Henderson said villagers opposed the “sheer size” of the scheme, its visual impact and the loss of good farmland.

Jan Field, chairman of the Alresford Society, said the panels would be seen from the other side of the A31 on the Wayfarers’ Walk near Tichborne Down.

The absence at the meeting at Alresford Recreation Centre of the landowner was noted. John Miller said it was a shame he “hasn’t the courage to come along."

Mr Henderson said: “It is a great pity the landlord who has enjoyed living in Alresford and Bishop's Sutton can put forward a scheme from which he stands to make personal gain at the cost of the community at large.”

Toby Coles, of Western Court Farm, who farms the land, told the Chronicle this evening that it was factually incorrect to say he was the landowner. He said the site is owned by his brother, Bill Coles.

Toby Coles said: "I am not the 'driving force'. I am not the landowner. I have no financial interest in it and will gain no financial benefit from it."

Simon Smith, of nearby Ropley, said: “Solar is a great renewable energy. But it needs to be placed where there is sun. Why not put solar farms in the south of France?”

But there was support for the plans. David Wright, of Appledown Close, Alresford, said: “Some people find solar farms attractive. I would welcome it.”

Robin Atkins, of Lindley Gardens, Alresford, said: “I am in favour and having different uses in the countryside. I want energy from solar rather than fossil fuels.”

The planning application has been submitted and the deadline for comments is October 18.

After the meeting, Mr Candlish said: “There was a really good turnout and a range of views expressed. Most were concerned about the project but there were people in favour.”

It is the third solar farm proposal in the Alresford area, following schemes near Itchen Stoke and Tichborne, the latter since dropped.