COUNCILLORS have given their approval for a solar farm to be built between Gosport and Fareham.
The plan to build a 27-hectare site on land off Tanners Lane, west of Newgate Lane, Fareham, went before the planning committee at Fareham Borough Council today.
Two residents who live near to the site made deputations raising concerns over the possible health risks of living near the 1.7m high panels, the glare they might cause and the loss of wildlife.
Tim Pratt, from Fareham and Gosport Friends of the Earth, spoke in support. He said: ‘We support this project because we want to see Fareham playing its part in the transition to non-carbon energy which is so badly needed.’
His group staged a support demonstration outside the Civic Offices, prior to the meeting.
Deputations were also heard from Hill Head ward councillor Tim Knight and Stubbington ward councillors Kay Mandry and Jim Forrest.
Prior to the meeting, the council had received 33 letters of objection, citing objections such as possible complications with the proposed Stubbington bypass, the loss of the strategic gap between Fareham and Gosport and noise, among many other issues.
It had also received 16 letters of support.
Paul Holmes-Ling, from Vogt Solar, assured the councillors his company had been working with the county council to come up with a solution should the blue route of the Stubbington bypass go ahead. He also said that allowing the construction of the solar farm on this site would make approval for the bypass easier to obtain.
He also said that his company had worked extensively with Natural England to come to an agreement and to carry out ecological surveys.
The decision split councillors who raised many arguments both for and against.
Cllr David Swanbrow read out excerpts from newspaper articles which referred to the solar panels as ‘ugly and brutal’ and ‘hideous constructions’.
Cllr Katrina Trott said: ‘We were asked to look to our consciences for this and I am very much looking at my conscience. We are using far more energy than ever before. From national policy guidelines, I cannot oppose this.’
Cllr Roger Price said: ‘This has to be decided purely on planning grounds. If we deviate from this point and make decisions in our own minds, consciences or not, on any other issue then we are on a hiding to nothing.’
Councillors discussed issues such as building in the strategic gap, how pleasant the footpaths would be to walk down, the impact on the Solent Enterprise Zone and how difficult it would to remove the site at the end of its 25 years.
Cllr Connie Hockley said: ‘I have been listening intently. I came to this meeting sitting on the fence.
‘I can see both points of view. I can see the point of not having anything built in the countryside as in 25 years it will be developed. That’s more than a danger.
‘I also have problems liking some of the green energy that is advised to us by government. I wish in this world, in which we are so reliant on petrol, that the engineers instead of building weapons of mass destruction would build some kind of green energy solution without all this kind of nonsense.’
Cllr Michael Ford said: ‘In planning terms, whether we like it or not, I find it difficult to refuse.’
Two councillors voted against the solar farm. Six permitted the development.
Speaking after the meeting, chair of the planning committee Cllr Nick Walker said: ‘It was an interesting discussion between experienced councillors. I thought it was going to be closer. At the end of the day some of the arguments against it were not logical.’