TWO SOLAR farms, which will be capable of powering around 30,000 homes east of Basingstoke, have received a planning approval from the Hart District Council.

The proposed solar farms in North Warnborough and Rotherwick can power about two-thirds of the homes within the Hart district, according to the plan.

Although both applications have received significant objections from residents, the Hart council decided to approve the plan considering its Climate Emergency Declaration.

The council said it believes both farms will make a significant contribution to the amount of renewable power provided to the National Grid.

The application for North Warnborough solar farm, submitted in December 2020, has had 87 public comments, which include 77 objections and five supporting.

The Rotherwick solar farm’s planning application, submitted in February 2021, has had 326 public comments, which include 283 objections and 37 supporting.

The main objection for the North Warnborough farm was the fact that industrialised renewable energy production is planned “on a highly attractive area of high grade agricultural down land”, which contravenes the National Planning Policy Framework.

The residents also argued the project will have impact on visual and landscape character and on Greywell Fen SSSI, Basingstoke Canal SSSI and the River Whitewater chalkstream.

For Rotherwick project, the major objection is for a 10-foot-high hedging, which “will ruin the public rights of way and footpaths enjoyed by the walkers and ramblers”. The residents said the project will be severely detrimental to public rights of way and listed buildings in the area for hundreds of years.

The council, however, decided to go ahead with the project considering it has a target of becoming carbon neutral district by 2040.

Cllr David Neighbour, leader of Hart District Council, said: “This is excellent news. As a local authority we have set our targets of being a carbon neutral authority by 2035 and a district as a whole by 2040.

“It’s important that we play our part in reducing the effects of climate change and this is a significant step in the right direction to achieve those targets and puts the district on a positive path. What a great decision to be made especially with it coinciding with the end of COP26.”

Cllr Alan Oliver, chairman of the planning committee added: “I’m delighted that the planning committee was able to reach a decision on these applications. We are pleased to see this type of scheme come forward and will be encouraging other developers to take note and provide sustainable green applications going forward.

“This initiative also comes in the same week that the House of Commons approved the Environment Act. An element of the new Act will see biodiversity net gain introduced for new all developments, which we, as a local authority will support.”