LANS to build Britain’s biggest solar farm in the Test Valley have been thrown out after borough councillors decided that the 190-acre site was not a suitable location.
Members of the planning control committee of Test Valley Borough Council rejected the proposal for Eveley Farm at Houghton by 11 votes to two following a two-hour debate and many questions at Andover Guildhall on Tuesday.
Last month members of the southern area planning committee had given the scheme their approval but the matter had been referred to the planning control committee as the earlier planning committee had gone against the recommendation of the council’s planning officers.
The plan could still be given approval if the Government calls in the application to be determined – but that seems unlikely since the decision arrived at on Tuesday accords with the latest planning policy guidelines which recommend solar for urban areas and not agricultural land.
Councillors decided to back planner Katherine Fitzherbert-Green’s two reasons for refusal.
She stated that the size and scale of the development would have an unacceptable impact on the landscape and also because insufficient evidence that the site consisted solely on the poorest grade agricultural land had been produced.
But some councillors were still keen for the plan to go-ahead.
Alan Dowden, said: “It is a major consideration that the borough, from one site, could produce enough energy for 22 per cent of its population. We could one day find that the lights go off because we don’t have enough power – we need good clean energy.”
His view was echoed by the council’s deputy leader Martin Hatley, who said: “The UK imports 27 per cent of its energy and that will rise to 50 per cent in 2020 and we will rely on countries like Russia.
“Locally 96 per cent of our power comes from outside the Solent sub-region. We need to deal with the adverse and terrible effects of climate change on plants and trees and solar farms are less obtrusive than wind farms or some panels in conservation areas.”
Andover councillor Zilliah Brooks, disagreed. She said: “Solar power has a future but it can’t be in any place at any price and the panels need to be targeted in brown field areas.
“Farmland is the last place we should be building solar farms and we already rely too much on foreign food.
“This solar farm would have an enormous impact on this beautiful part of Test Valley and would completely change the landscape.”
Councillor Peter Hurst added: “Do we want to approve this against government policy? It is absolutely the wrong place – I can’t believe the best place for a 77 hectare solar farm is in the valley of the Test.”
Wallop councillor Tony Hope said it would be ‘sacrilege’ to allow such a large development in such a beautiful part of the country. “I can’t accept it won’t be seen.”
The land in question is owned by borough Councillor Daniel Busk.
After the meeting Alan Josling from Broughton Against Kronos said: “I thank the local councillors for making the right decision. The solar farm could have destroyed a large swathe of the natural beauty that we have here in the Test Valley. There has been huge local opposition to the proposals – which would have covered an area of 150 football pitches – and I am glad that the Planning Control Committee took this local feeling, and the numerous planning reasons for refusal, on board”.
The proposed Eveley solar farm would be seven times the size of the nearby one at Barrow Hill
Its 190 acres could house 206,000 photovoltic cells It would avoid the production of 30,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
It would produce a maximum of 49 MW of electricity fed into the National Grid.
Over the six month construction period it would generate 2,660 HGV journeys.