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Plan for South Hams solar farm 'bigger than 20 football pitches'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 11, 2013

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Plans for a solar farm bigger than 20 football pitches on prime Devon farmland are set to go on display – the fourth large scale power plant within a few miles.

The 43-acre scheme at Southdown Farm, Dartington, near Totnes, is the latest application to build an array of ground-mounted photo-voltaic panels.

Wessex Solar Energy has submitted an application to South Hams District Council to construct a plant generating 5MW of "clean" electricity – enough to power around 1,200 homes.

The land is currently said to be used to graze a flock of sheep to provide organic lamb to Riverford Organic Farms, at Buckfastleigh.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in Devon opposes converting agricultural land into solar parks at a time of rising food prices and growing populations.

Bob Barfoot, one of the CPRE's county spokesmen, said the practice was "insane".

"Smaller schemes could generate the same amount of power if located on roofs, barns and community building across the region but the easy option is to stick them on a field," he added.

"Supporters say you can graze sheep around them but the ground will be shaded from the sun and any grass that's left won't last five minutes because it just isn't going to grow."

The plans bring the total area locally earmarked for panels to more than 152 acres.

An application for 47 acres at nearby Marley Thatch Farm has already been passed and another for 33 acres at Blue Post Lane, Harberton, is under construction.

Plans for 29 acres of panels at Hazard Farm, Harberton are awaiting a decision.

The Southdown farm application proposes sinking 6,000 concrete posts into the ground to carry the panels as well as the construction of 11 small buildings, each the "height of a small dwelling".

None of the neighbouring parishes have raised any objection to the project but there have been calls for a promised contribution of £10,000 towards a cycle path to be enshrined in planning consent.

Susie Dunster, who lives on Ashridge Farm, land adjacent to and overlooking the proposed site, said she did not object to farmers taking an opportunity to make some money from their land.

But she warned that "scale and appropriate place" should be taken into account by councillors in deciding such schemes.

Mrs Dunster also questioned who would be willing to uproot the foundations, clear the concrete and return the land to its original state.

"Perhaps an annual element of the payment received from the Feed-in Tariff should be held in escrow by South Hams council to ensure that on expiry the funds are there for restoration as the original business could be long gone or money unavailable for clean-up," she added.

The Bristol-based company will publicly unveil its plans tomorrow from 10am to 4pm at Dartington Church of England Primary School, Shinners Bridge, Dartington

A district council spokesman said: "At the moment it is out for consultation and no decisions have been made or recommendations from the local councillor.

"Only when those are complete will it be decided as to whether the plans will be approved under delegated powers, or go to committee."

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  • sonofmeldrew  |  January 11 2013, 1:50PM

    This horrendous metal, concrete and glass sprawl surely has to be prevented & I really hope all planning agencies across the region are seeing this for what it really is. Purely for profit making, not power generation which is secondary here due to the tiny amounts produced. If people are being honest, this type of infrastructure can never be described as easy on the eye. OK(ish) when its just dotted around lightly on the roofs of loaded people here and there..but please will you leave the green fields alone! We want our country scenery kept nice for the generations to come, and us of course. Give the likes of these solar panel companies an inch and they will go ahead and take mile after mile of our so called green and pleasant land. Quickly too. One day green, next day monotone and brown. We all know that some of them are even new companies which have been established with the sole purpose of grabbing a quick & easy profit from the current gvt subsidies. Or in other words here's another case of rich getting richer, but at what expense to our beautiful countryside? These things are not beautiful in any way. Nasty metallic blue jagged edged window type frames all over the place is not many peoples idea of a nice stroll in the Devon country side. Shame on the custodians of our countryside (the greedy farmers) many of course aren't like that, but those that are are up for handing over good quality grazing and arable land. If this goes ahead, green will gradually become brown and silver & if similar proposals are also given consent on the back of it, very soon mile after mile our lovely English scenery will look more like a moon scape from space 1999. Dusty and desolate. Nothing can graze those areas and nothing can grow in the shade of them. When it's too late to stop, it will be like a virus and spread all over. Putting up solar farms all over the countryside will NOT solve energy issues. Object to the planning application if you can! Next time it might be in a field near you, that nice one you walk the dogs in, the one with all the lovely British wild flowers.

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  • Waltersmith  |  January 11 2013, 12:22PM

    @timplymouth, b_mused Funnily enough I said exactly the same re the Council yesterday and ended up with loads of negative ratings! I wonder why Your comments are very valid

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  • b_mused  |  January 11 2013, 10:52AM

    Is it fair that wealthier people who can afford solar panels receive huge subsidies from poorer people who can't and those without a south facing roof? Where will our food come from when the farmland is covered with panels? Stop this farce now.

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  • trudie2010  |  January 11 2013, 10:49AM

    These panels should be put on buildings on the roof, not on land for food. Before we know it they will put in planning permission for buildings, then all agricultural land will be in danger.

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  • timplymouth  |  January 11 2013, 10:03AM

    They should be more accurately called subsidy panels. The electricity they produce from sunlight is a by-product. They make 10x more money from the subsidy than the electricity.

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