CONTROVERSIAL plans for a major solar farm in countryside near Winchester have been narrowly approved. 

Developers Novus and Innova applied for the development at Pitt Down south of Sarum Road, Sparsholt and Farley Mount.

The solar farm divided opinion, with 179 objections and 123 supports. Sparsholt Parish Council was an opponent to the scheme, but Hursley Parish Council supported it. 

The developers estimate that it will save 4,054 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and power around 4,722 homes annually. It will operate for 40 years.

The city council planning committee permitted the development on Wednesday, February 7. Officers had recommended permission. 

Objecting, Rachel Waldron, from the nearby Beechcroft Farm Shop and Tea Barn, said: “The site is in a visually sensitive area. The best response to climate change is not this. 

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“We always appreciate the unspoiled countryside. There are more appropriate areas for a solar farm.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Cllr Caroline Horrill

Samantha Culhane, of Sarum Road, said: “This will industrialise the landscape. It does not seem that other sites have been thoroughly investigated. 

“The proposed screening will break-up the views of the countryside.”

Sue Wood, chairman of Sparsholt Parish Council, said: “The location has been selected because it is near a pylon in a field where the owner is prepared to have the installation. The proposed site is on the highest point of the undulating and valued landscape which would change it from an agricultural view to an industrial one. No amount of mitigation can compensate for this loss. 

“The impact on the landscape to meet energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location. Protecting the global environment is not an excuse to trash the local environment.”

Eleanor Bell, of Hursley Parish Council, said: “We support this. The city council has set ambitious net zero targets. The pan is on open land and will be visible. The concerns do not outweigh the benefits to the local area to produce green energy.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Solar farm site plan

Cllr Caroline Horrill, who represents the neighbouring Wonston and Micheldever ward and lives in Sparsholt, said: “The site is within a valued landscape. We should be preserving the tranquillity of the area and visual intrusion should be minimal. The planning balance ought to favour refusal.”

Nicola Jones, planning manager for Innova, said: “The solar farm can be connected to the grid this year. This is an entirely reversible development. The site has been selected on the availability of the grid connection. It's on just three per cent of the owner's land. 

“Our application presents a real opportunity to reduce climate emissions. Any harm is considered to be outweighed by the public benefits.”

The committee was divided over the plans. Conservative councillor Patrick Cunningham said: “The plan will result in a severe detrimental impact to the area. I fear this will set a precedent for the industrialisation of the landscape.”

Cllr Danny Lee, Green, said: “This will change the environment, not destroy it. This is an opportunity for us to get green energy into the grid.”

Cllr Russell Gordon-Smith, Lib Dem, said: “There is a visceral dislike of solar farms. But there is an awful lot of support listed for this. We have the idea that the landscape around us is permanent. It's not, it's dynamic.”

The plans were approved with six votes for and three against.