A plan to install a solar farm on land near Hereford capable of powering over 9,000 homes has been approved despite local concerns.
Ersun (Westhide SPV) Ltd of Cheshire had sought permission for over 45,000 solar panels on fields west of the village of Westhide, bordering the disused Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal.
The firm also wanted to install 2.5-metre high security fencing, CCTV cameras, underground cabling, a substation and current inverters, as well as environmental enhancements.
Residents had raised concerns over likely noise from the inverters and substation, and Withington Parish Council member Anna Green told Herefordshire Council’s planning committee last week that those downwind of the site “are overwhelmingly against this development”.
She also claimed the plan “poses a flood risk to our residents” and, with the fencing, lighting and security cameras, would “industrialise the landscape”.
But Gulya Isyanova, agent for the applicant, said it had “consulted with the local community, resulting in many changes to the proposals”.
Solar power “has a critical role to play” in providing affordable, sustainable and reliable energy, she claimed, and “is now the cheapest and quickest to deploy form of electricity generation in the UK”.
Coun Jonathan Lester, who represents the neighbouring ward and is also group leader for the Conservatives, said the plan “would have a negative effect on communities, farmland and the landscape”.
Installing underground cabling to the Withington substation would be “a substantial engineering operation”, and the 30-year timescale of the scheme “is not temporary”, he said.
Planning committee member Coun Sebastian Bowen said the development would be “very large and in a very beautiful bit of the county”.
To which Coun Paul Rone said: “If not here, where in Herefordshire? We have declared a climate change emergency, we really cannot say no to this.”
And Coun Nigel Shaw said approving the scheme “will no doubt upset a lot of local people, but our responsibility is to the whole of Herefordshire”.
Having the noise management reviewed quarterly rather than annually during the first two years would better address local concerns, he proposed.
The council’s development manager Simon Withers pointed out that no official consultees had objected to the plan, and that councillors should not be “swayed” by the outcome of similar previous applications.
Councillors voted 10 to three to approve the scheme.
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