Fears raised over huge solar farm at ancient estate

Amanda Morby, Portsmouth

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OPPOSITION to what will be the biggest solar farm in the UK is growing.

Plans have been submitted to create a solar farm over 200 acres of the Southwick Estate, which lies between Fareham and Denmead.

The ambitious plan, which will generate enough energy to power 11,000 homes, has been drawn up by Hive Energy and Welborne Solar.

But it will mean the loss of Belney Farm, off Belney Lane, which has been farmed by the Cutler family for three generations.

Hive Energy describes the land as ‘poor quality farmland’ but all three parcels of land are used successfully for either arable or beef grazing.

Neil Cutler, the current tenant farmer, is also a local parish and district councillor. He declined to speak to The News when approached.

But others have made their opposition clear in representations to Winchester City Council.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England objects, particularly to the southern two parcels of land.

They said: ‘These parts of the site form an important element of the undulating landscape of the Forest of Bere local area, and development with solar panels would result in an unacceptable adverse landscape and visual impact.’

They are also against the application for a 5ft 10in security fence around the site saying it will have ‘considerable adverse impact on the remaining rural character and tranquillity of the locality.’

In a statement the Southwick Estate said: ‘‘We note the objection from CPRE Hampshire, which would appear to conflict with the comments made by Friends of the Earth and the feedback we received during our earlier consultation.

‘We are happy to further discuss the site’s suitability and the steps we have taken to ensure the least possible impact on the countryside with anyone that has any questions or queries.

‘We will, of course, continue to liaise closely with officers at Winchester on the application and all factors associated with the scheme over the course of the coming weeks.’

Southwick Parish Council will discuss the plans at a public meeting tomorrow night from 7.30pm.