Community solar farm in Bishop’s Waltham gets the green light

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A LARGE solar farm which will invite its neighbours to invest in shares and start a community ownership programme has been approved by councillors.

The application to build a 64-acre solar farm near Bishop’s Waltham has been given the green light by Winchester City Council’s planning committee.

The scheme, being run by energy company Solafields, will provide enough power for 3,636 homes and it will save around 5,160 tonnes of CO2 annually once complete.

Solafields is offering a community benefit fund for local projects, as well as the opportunity of community ownership for those who live in Bishop’s Waltham and Shedfield.

The company is joining up with Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-operative (HREC), a not-for-profit organisation which promotes community ownership of renewable energy projects, to offer up to 10 per cent of community investment in the solar farm.

Two residents wrote to Winchester City Council about the project ahead of its decision – one raising concerns over wildlife such as hazel dormice and bats.

The other resident, Ellie Bolton, from Bishop’s Waltham, wrote in support of the farm, planned for land west of the B2177 Winchester Road between Bishop’s Waltham and Waltham Chase.

She said: ‘Global warming is a significant threat to the stability of our countryside and its wildlife. Reducing climate changing greenhouse gas emissions is a stated policy objective of national government and Winchester City Council. Supporting this application is a significant step in achieving those goals.’

Mark Candlish, director of Solafields, said: ‘We are delighted the council has approved the application.

‘We worked closely with officers, residents, parish councils and the HREC to ensure the proposal was acceptable and benefits the community, and this was reflected in the support for the scheme.’

The company is now planning a construction programme before work starts on the site.