THE new Green Party leader has hailed plans for a proposed solar farm in Fareham during a visit to the site.
Natalie Bennett, who was elected to power last month and replaced Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, said: ‘This solar farm will put Fareham at the forefront of the green energy revolution that is needed to curb climate change and secure this country’s energy supply.’
The solar farm will be the largest in the UK and the second largest in Europe.
If plans go ahead, the first solar panel will be installed next spring on farmland between HMS Collingwood, Peel Common sewage works and Newlands Farm, off Peak Lane.
Once completed the farm will generate enough electricity to power 14,000 homes a year and save 24,800 tonnes of greenhouse gases.
However, the plans have triggered fears for the safety of planes using the Deadalus airfield.
Ms Bennett said: ‘We can trust the process, there will be experts that can judge on that.
‘Safety is always a top priority. I am happy to rely on the expert opinion and would ask others to do the same’
Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, has previously spoken of his fears that the strategic gap between Fareham and Stubbington will be eroded by the solar farm development.
Ms Bennett responded: ‘We are talking about having wild flowers growing, sheep grazing and the rights of way maintained, not a large-scale housing development.
‘The fact is that we do need more energy and we need to do a lot of work on energy conservation. Even if we do all we can, we still need low and zero carbon energy sources.’
She continued: ‘The alternative to this is fracking – an extreme form of energy harvesting – basically blowing up the ground under your feet.
‘Faced with destroying the earth or planting wild flowers and allowing sheep to graze, I think the choice is pretty obvious.’
The site would be protected against further development for 25 years –the length of the lease.
Ms Bennett concluded: ‘All in all, it is great news for a town that is looking to the future, not the past.’
She also visited Havant to speak with local members about East Street, which is the focus of regeneration proposals by Havant Borough Council.
Ms Bennett said: ‘East Street is a beautiful conservation area. What I have found here and in other areas are plans being implemented without taking into account the views of the community.
‘We need to do a proper open consultation process, one where everybody has a chance to speak.’