Opposition to a proposed giant solar farm on the Mendip Hills is growing, with parish councillors the latest to declare their objection.
The farm, consisting of 22,000 panels more than 9ft high, is proposed on 30 acres at Ingsdon’s Hill, on Hurlingpot Farm, Doulting. Doulting Parish Council called an extraordinary council meeting on Monday night to discuss the issue. The application prompted 16 responses from the community, with only one in favour.
Villagers in Doulting, Chelynch and Bodden have formed the Ingsdon Hil Preservation Society to fight the scheme. They say it will desecrate the landscape in an area which has been referred to the Department for Food the Environment and Rural Affairs for possible inclusion in the Mendip Area of Outsanding Natural Beauty.
Villager Carol Woolley, of Bodden, suggests disused quarries could be used instead of open countryside.
A public footpath, part of the East Mendip Way, skirts the site, which would be surrounded by 6ft-high security fencing and CCTV cameras.
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, has said the “sun factory” would be a “slap in the face” for walkers.
Campaigners say the panels will be visible from as far away as Glastonbury and Shepton Mallet. Shepton Mallet town councillors voted earlier this month to raise their concerns with Mendip District Council, which will decide the application at a planning meeting on January 9.
German company AEE, which wants to build the farm, said in a statement: “AEE has always been keen to work with the local community in obtaining the best possible outcome for our solar farm developments and we will continue in this regard.
"We have a strong commitment to renewable energy in the UK that is reinforced by national planning policy which focuses on tackling climate change through green technology. AEE firmly believes that we have a scheme that addresses the concerns of the local community.
"Hurlingpot Farm will provide a small but significant contribution to the 20 per cent level of renewable energy production that the UK is committed to provide by 2020.”
Local GP Dr Simon Douglass, chairman of Ingsdon’s Hill Preservation Society, said: “It’s important to stress that as a group of individuals we fully understand the somewhat bleak future in terms of energy requirements, particularly in our own country, and we definitely do support sustainable energy generation, but we are not in favour of plonking them in such a significantly beautiful part of our landscape and heritage.”
Developer AEE says the field will create enough electricity to power approximately 1,585 UK homes.
Dr Douglass said the firm is offering no community benefit but AEE says it will provide solar panels for the village school.