Plan for South Hams solar farm 'bigger than 20 football pitches'
Plans for a solar farm bigger than 20 football pitches on prime Devon farmland are set to go on display – the fourth large scale power plant within a few miles.
The 43-acre scheme at Southdown Farm, Dartington, near Totnes, is the latest application to build an array of ground-mounted photo-voltaic panels.
Wessex Solar Energy has submitted an application to South Hams District Council to construct a plant generating 5MW of "clean" electricity – enough to power around 1,200 homes.
The land is currently said to be used to graze a flock of sheep to provide organic lamb to Riverford Organic Farms, at Buckfastleigh.
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The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in Devon opposes converting agricultural land into solar parks at a time of rising food prices and growing populations.
Bob Barfoot, one of the CPRE's county spokesmen, said the practice was "insane".
"Smaller schemes could generate the same amount of power if located on roofs, barns and community building across the region but the easy option is to stick them on a field," he added.
"Supporters say you can graze sheep around them but the ground will be shaded from the sun and any grass that's left won't last five minutes because it just isn't going to grow."
The plans bring the total area locally earmarked for panels to more than 152 acres.
An application for 47 acres at nearby Marley Thatch Farm has already been passed and another for 33 acres at Blue Post Lane, Harberton, is under construction.
Plans for 29 acres of panels at Hazard Farm, Harberton are awaiting a decision.
The Southdown farm application proposes sinking 6,000 concrete posts into the ground to carry the panels as well as the construction of 11 small buildings, each the "height of a small dwelling".
None of the neighbouring parishes have raised any objection to the project but there have been calls for a promised contribution of £10,000 towards a cycle path to be enshrined in planning consent.
Susie Dunster, who lives on Ashridge Farm, land adjacent to and overlooking the proposed site, said she did not object to farmers taking an opportunity to make some money from their land.
But she warned that "scale and appropriate place" should be taken into account by councillors in deciding such schemes.
Mrs Dunster also questioned who would be willing to uproot the foundations, clear the concrete and return the land to its original state.
"Perhaps an annual element of the payment received from the Feed-in Tariff should be held in escrow by South Hams council to ensure that on expiry the funds are there for restoration as the original business could be long gone or money unavailable for clean-up," she added.
The Bristol-based company will publicly unveil its plans tomorrow from 10am to 4pm at Dartington Church of England Primary School, Shinners Bridge, Dartington
A district council spokesman said: "At the moment it is out for consultation and no decisions have been made or recommendations from the local councillor.
"Only when those are complete will it be decided as to whether the plans will be approved under delegated powers, or go to committee."