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Proposed solar farm 'could power whole of Somerton'

By Western Gazette - South Somerset  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

SOLAR PLANS: An image of a solar farm similar to the one Somerton businessman Tony Canvin hopes will be approved on nearly 16 hectares of farmland between Somerton and Pitney

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A solar farm capable of powering the whole of Somerton has been criticised by a local council – but the man behind the proposal says it will benefit the area.

An application to cover around 15.6 hectares of farmland between Somerton and Pitney with solar panels has been submitted by businessman Tony Canvin.

Pitney Parish Council is unanimously opposed to the development at Little Park Farm, Park Lane, Pitney, and has expressed “major concern” over the loss of agricultural land.

The proposed site is currently used for harvesting wheat.

However Mr Canvin said this week the development would feed power back into the grid and provide a vital service.

He told the Western Gazette: “It will generate enough energy to cover the whole of Somerton. It could power 2,000 homes.

“What’s the difference between generating electricity and growing corn? Electricity is a service that everyone needs and it will go back into the Somerton grid.

“People don’t want nuclear power.

“Everything will be done properly. Sheep will graze underneath the panels.”

One neighbour has supported the proposal while others have raised concerns about the impact of the panels.

John Neeve, a resident of Park Farm, sold the land to Mr Canvin and is planning to move into barns on the site over the next year.

He wrote to the district council seeking assurances that the site would be properly screened to avoid negative impact on the countryside.

He said: “My property at Park Farm was purchased not least because it has an unobstructed view over the Levels and the proposed development could spoil this outlook, with the consequent negative impact on property value and natural beauty.

“The development would invade the currently unspoilt pastoral outlook over the Levels and Compton Dundon beacon.

“Any security fencing should be designed to blend naturally into the existing landscape and not present an aggressive and inappropriate view to the local inhabitants and those using the scenic cycle route of Park Lane.”

He also requested an environmental protection expert make a report advising of the best way to protect the area.

David Cundle, who lives on Park Lane, said the development was just another excuse for a landowner to make money.

He said: “I object on the grounds that the countryside is spoilt enough and that no amount of green reasoning is adding to its beauty.

“Surely going green means not turning fields into glass eyesores.”

Farm owner Gwen Less said: “It is a shame that such good agricultural land is being used for these developments.”

She also commented that if approved she would like a condition that no traffic should approach from the west.

Fellow resident Ray Toomer said there are already problems with large vehicles getting stuck along the single track road to the west of the site. He said any additional traffic caused by the construction or operation of the site would be detrimental to the area.

He also said the solar farm would “have a significant and detrimental visual impact on the rural setting”, in particular to users of the nearby riverside footpaths.

He added: “Although I am in favour of ‘green’ energy it would be preferable to use sites which did not remove land from productive agricultural use or change the rural character of the locality.”

The application proposes bordering the site with a two-metre high, dark green security fence to protect the array from theft or vandalism.

The panels are designed to have a lifetime of around 25 years, after which the site will be decommissioned, the panels removed and the land returned to agricultural use.

South Somerset District Council planners are expected to reach a decision by Wednesday, March 6.

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