Firms’ search for sites won’t stop if plan is turned down

STEVE CANAVAN: Take note of why I love this country so much

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Is solar energy the future? If the answer is yes, then there are clearly still a lot of issues to be resolved over where exactly the panels necessary to harvest the power of the sun are situated.

Look what is happening in Fareham. German firm IB Vogts has applied for planning permission to erect nearly 200,000 solar panels on 58 hectares of agricultural land to the south of Tanners Lane and the west of Newgate Lane.

Green campaigners are in favour of a huge solar farm being built to create sustainable energy.

But local residents and councillors are vigorously opposed to what they believe would be an eyesore. Opinion is split and the two camps are never likely to agree.

In the end, it looks like this hugely controversial £40m plan won’t get the nod. Council officers have recommended planners refuse the application.

Will their advice be heeded? We’ll have to wait and see. But if solar power is going to be used to help meet our energy needs, then the reality is that the panels required will have to go somewhere and in sufficient volume to make a big enough difference.

The main argument against them seems to follow that used to try to block the big windmill-like structures used in wind farms from dotting our landscape. In short, they look unattractive.

But in the case of the proposed solar site at Fareham, it isn’t just about visual appearance and the perceived effect on views and property values.

There are genuine fears that glare from the panels would affect the safety of planes landing at Daedalus Airfield, while some claim developing the site would obstruct any future building of a Stubbington bypass.

Perhaps this really is the wrong place for a big solar farm, in which case the council officers are being responsible in recommending refusal.

But if not Fareham, then where? Because you can be sure of one thing.

Companies such as IB Vogts, whose business is creating solar farms, aren’t just going to go away. The search for sites will go on.