Large solar farm approved in south Warwickshire - despite calls for the land to be retained for agriculture

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Developers hope the 96-acre site between Wellesbourne and Newbold Pacey will power around 5,500 homes

A solar farm stretching across five fields has been approved by councillors in spite of calls for the land to be retained for agriculture.

The 96-acre site between Wellesbourne and Newbold Pacey will, according to applicants Novus Renewable Services, power around 5,500 homes when up and running and would almost double the biodiversity due to rewilding and planting across the land.

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But the plans were opposed by parish and district councillors who told the latest [Aug 17] Stratford District Council planning committee that the site was in the wrong place.

A solar farm stretching across five fields has been approved by councillors in spite of calls for the land to be retained for agriculture.A solar farm stretching across five fields has been approved by councillors in spite of calls for the land to be retained for agriculture.
A solar farm stretching across five fields has been approved by councillors in spite of calls for the land to be retained for agriculture.

Cllr Roger Wright, from Newbold Pacey and Ashorne Parish Council, said: “The main issues are on landscape and the sheer scale of the development. Approval would completely destroy the ancient character of Newbold Pacey and the historical landscape character.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Cllr Anne Parry (Con, Wellesbourne East) who said the site was at the entrance to an ancient mediaeval village.

She added: “I am in support of renewable energy projects of the right size, in the right location and which avoid destroying the rural character of the landscape providing essential food production. I have significant concerns about this application.

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“If granted it would result in the obliteration of this countryside. Even the developers acknowledge that the impact on the landscape is moderate to high. In my view it is exceptionally high.”

Two members of the public also spoke against the plans but the committee also heard that there was plenty of support with 48 letters sent to the council.

One of those backing the scheme was Stephen Norrie, chair of Stratford Climate Action, who said: “I don't think it is responsible to block solar projects that are actually on the table because we are waiting for the government to maybe make it easier to install solar panels on roofs or for perfect sites to come forward that no-one will object to.

“Talk of the industrialisation of the countryside invokes images of dark satanic mills pumping out poisonous smog while what we are facing are quiet, clean solar panels surrounded by wildflower meadows nibbled by a few sheep and largely screened from view.”

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Members of the planning committee were split. Cllr Bill Fleming (Con, Bidford West and Salford) said: “Saying that this is poor grade land is a fallacy - you can see the quality of the crops grown.

“It’s a balance between losing that land for electricity or looking after the heritage that we have in a really good agricultural area which I don’t think should be buried under solar panels.”

But Cllr Matt Jennings (Con, Henley) said: “There are emotional reasons to object to this but we are not here to make judgements on emotions, we are here to make decisions on sound material reasons. There is no loss of agricultural land, the biodiversity benefits are there and it is a temporary measure.”

The plans were approved by seven votes to four.

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