Consultation sees bid for solar farm scaled back by energy firm

BIG IDEA Plans have gone in for a huge solar farm near Bishop's Waltham
BIG IDEA Plans have gone in for a huge solar farm near Bishop's Waltham
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PLAN for a solar farm which could power thousands of homes have been scaled back after a public consultation.

And residents will have the chance to benefit from it financially if it gets approved as the company looks for local investors.

Solafields, a UK-owned solar company based in Northamptonshire, has applied to build the 26-hectare farm on land west of the B2177 Winchester Road between Bishop’s Waltham and Waltham Chase.

If approved by Winchester City Council, it would generate enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of 3,636 households.

A public exhibition was held in Jubilee Hall, Bishop’s Waltham last November, at which residents helped shape the scheme.

Mark Candlish, from Solafields, said: ‘The feedback was extremely positive.

‘As a result of the consultation a substantial number of amendments have been made.

‘These include the size of the scheme being reduced from 30 hectares down to approximately 26 hectares, additional planting and increased hedge heights to help screen views and a promise that the solar farm would not be expanded into fields to the west of the proposed site.’

Along with a benefit fund for local projects, community ownership of the solar farm has been proposed, offering investment opportunities that prioritise those living in Bishop’s Waltham and Shedfield parishes.

Mr Candlish said: ‘We want the community to have the opportunity to invest in the proposed solar farm and share in its success.

‘To achieve this we are partnering with Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-operative, a local not-for-profit organisation that promotes community ownership of renewable energy projects.

‘Should permission be granted and the project proceeds to construction, we’d accept up to 10 per cent of community investment in the proposed solar farm.’

Typical investments should be between £1,000 and £10,000.

Martin Heath, from HREC, said: ‘Community energy is the future.

‘It means all of us – the landowners, the developers and us, the community – have a stake in the renewables in Hampshire. It means that all of us can do our bit to protect our environment; and take responsibility for cleaning up our energy supplies.’

More information about the community ownership proposal can be found at hampshire-energy.coop

To view or comment on the application go to winchester.gov.uk ref 15/00786/FUL.

If the plans are given the go ahead, it would create more than 100 jobs during the four-month build.