PROPOSALS to build Britain's largest solar farm in the Hampshire countryside look set to be shunted into the shade.
Test Valley planners say German green energy giant Kronos Solar Project's scheme at Eveley Farm in Houghton near Stockbridge is too big and would have an unacceptable impact on the landscape character of the countryside.
Planning officers are now recommending that councillors reject the controversial application when it is debated by TVBC's southern area committee members tonight.
Kronos plans included installing 225,456 solar panels on a 200-acre site owned by Test Valley Borough Councillor Danny Busk.
Currently the largest solar farm is at Wymeswold in Leicestershire and it has 130,000 solar panels.
The Houghton scheme has attracted a mixed response with more than 200 people signing a petition organised by Broughton Pro Solar supporting the proposed development which would generate 35MW of electricity annually over a 25-year period.
They say the solar panels would help reduce carbon emissions and it is a clear form of producing electricity for the National Grid.
However, both Houghton and Broughton parish councils, the Hampshire Gardens Trust and around 60 members of the public are objecting to the proposals which if approved would see three agricultural fields in open countryside covered in solar panels between Eveley Farm and the A30 Salisbury to Stockbridge road at Chattis Hill north of north east of Broughton village.
Opponents claim the scheme will be “detrimental” to the landscape and the solar farm would be “industrial installation” in the countryside.
In her report to the southern area committee planner, Katherine Fitzherbert Green admits that the proposal would “make a contribution” towards the national requirements for providing renewable energy which she says “carries weight in favour” of the development.
“However the need for renewable energy does not automatically override the need for environmental protection with the scale of the development found to adversely affect the landscape character and the visual amenity of the wider landscape,” adds the officer who concludes: “Furthermore, it has not been adequately demonstrated that the site compromises moderate grade 3B (moderate quality) agricultural land as to be satisfied the location of the proposal is justifiable.”
Numerous companies have announced plans to build solar farms across Hampshire. These include sites at North Baddesley, Michelmersh and Lee near Romsey, Stockbridge, Clatford near Andover and several schemes in the Winchester and Alresford areas.