Villagers object to ‘ugly’ solar farm plan

Plans submitted to South Gloucestershire Council show where panels would be sited on Varley Farm, between the B4058 Bristol Road and Wickwar Quarry.

VILLAGERS in Cromhall say the area is in danger of being overrun by solar farms.

British renewables developer RES is applying to put up 125 acres of solar panels at Varley Farm in Talbots End.

It follows approval last year for another large solar farm near the village.

More than 100 objections have been lodged against the Varley Farm plan on South Gloucestershire’s online planning portal, with 14 people writing in support.

One resident said there were already eight large scale solar farms with five miles of the proposed site.

Paul Sadley said in his online objection: “The closest is a site with approved planning permission for a 167 acre solar farm, 1km south of this proposed site. 

“Material consideration needs to seriously be given to the cumulative effect and impact that this scheme would have when combined with the approved scheme in Wickwar.”

Cromhall Parish Council has also opposed the plan, saying it takes a huge area of land out of farming production, and would affect wildlife.

Objector Julie Cragg said the solar panels would be “an ugly encroachment on our rural landscape” and result in the destruction of wildlife habitats.

Another, Sophie Contractor, said it would affect the setting of the village, changing it from a rural landscape to industrial.

Developers RES say that after a public exhibition in July 2022, they made changes to the design to meet local concerns, including reducing the impact of construction traffic.

Panels will ‘fit sensitively’ into the landscape

Solar arrays similar to those planned for Varley Farm, in an image supplied by RES.

A spokesperson said: “A number of changes have been made to the design to ensure the solar farm fits sensitively into the existing landscape, whilst maximising the low-carbon, low-cost electricity generation.

“Changes made include siting infrastructure further away from residential properties, and increasing the hedgerow height in areas to reduce potential visibility.” 

RES says Varley Solar Farm would produce green electricity for nearly 10,000 homes and contribute £80,000 in business rates every year.

 The company says the plan includes planting native trees and over 1km of new species-rich hedgerows, plus the installation of bird and bat boxes, hedgehog houses, reptile hibernacula and invertebrate hotels.

Among the comments supporting the application, Lauren Taylor said it was a great opportunity for a renewable energy source, which was needed in the current economic climate.

Supporter Isabel Flawn said a solar farm was a great move for the community.

She said: “Based on the location of the proposed solar farms, only a few houses will even be able to see the panels, compared to the many that can probably see, smell and hear the cows currently there.

“It’s obvious that the benefits grossly outweigh any possible, small and temporary negatives.”

The application can be viewed on the planning section of South Gloucestershire Council’s website, by searching for the reference P22/07114/F.