Solar farm ‘not part of a plan to concrete estate’

Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Michael Lane

‘Kick in the teeth’ for communities suffering from crime

Have your say

A SOLAR park plan for Southwick will be supported by parish council members, it was decided last night.

The proposal to install solar panels costing £30m at Belney Farm, off Belney Lane, will end agricultural farming on some parts of the estate for the next 25 years.

Members of Southwick & Widley Parish Council voted to support the plans at a public meeting.

Mark Thistlethwayte, who owns Southwick Estate with his father, said the farmer whose family has used the land for the last three generations was being offered ‘a multiple of his current income’.

‘This is not part of a cunning plan to concrete the estate,’ he said at the meeting.

Mr Thistlethwayte explained he had been approached by a number of solar energy companies.

He said the proximity to a substation and the amount of land was attractive for green energy companies.

Councillors heard from Mr Thistlethwayte after residents were given the chance to raise their concerns.

Rebecca Cutler, who lives at Belney Farm, was one of two members of the public to speak.

‘I think there are very few people who would be against alternative forms of energy in the world we live in now,’ she said.

‘The very, very large size of this solar park which is with the planning department is one of the biggest in actuality in the planning stage.

‘I am very worried about the impact on the countryside in this rural location.’

After debating public concerns over access to the site during the five-month construction stage, the size of the scheme – spanning 202 acres – and the impact on recreational users, parish council members voted to support the plan.

It will be down to members of Winchester City Council’s planning committee to make a final decision after the consultation period.

Councillor Jim Watson, chairman of the parish council, said: ‘Most of us have concerns and regret the lack of use of farming land. I think it would be fair to say that we have been assured this is not going to set a precedent for the rest of the Southwick Estate.’