Residents set to fight solar energy park plan
RESIDENTS in Backwell are gearing up to fight plans to build a solar energy park on acres of green belt land in the village.
Wessex Solar Energy has submitted plans to build a solar energy facility on land at Garleys Wood, Downside.
The scheme will see up to 75,000 photovoltaic panels mounted on metal frames at intervals of three to four metres on the 11.9 hectare site.
The new solar park – which would have a 25- year lifespan – would be able to produce 5MW of electricity at peak output times – enough electricity to power up to around 1,600 households.
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Around 50 people are expected to be employed as a result of the new energy park, which would be unmanned and monitored by an off-site control system. The new park would take between three and four months to build and access to the development would be off Hyatts Wood Lane. A planning application and detailed environmental assessment has now gone to North Somerset Council.
The company wants to see the land, owned by a farmer, downgraded so it can be used for the development.
But residents living near the proposed development have vowed to fight the plans, claiming the solar park will be a blot on the landscape.
A petition has now been launched against the development.
A spokesman for residents living at The Batch and Downside said: "The main concern is this is on green belt land and the applicant wants to down grade the land so it can be used for this development.
"I can't see how this is a suitable site for a solar park as up here we suffer with low cloud and bad weather.
"This solar park is in totally the wrong position.
"A petition has been set up with the majority of local people in the area of The Batch and Downside all signing it.
"We already have to put up with an expanding airport, a number of illegal car parks and the traffic and now someone wants to put a massive solar park practically in our back gardens."
A permanent 2.5 metre tall security fence would be put up around the perimeter of the site and 11 small concrete buildings installed to house electrical equipment.
In their application Wessex Solar Energy said: "The company is looking at a portfolio of sites across England and Wales for development and as identified the proposed site as being an ideal site for such a project, satisfying, as it does, a number of key criteria for solar park projects.
"The proposed solar park will generate clean renewable energy without some of the significant landscape and other environmental impacts associated with some forms of renewable energy.
"We are committed to developing projects in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner."
This is not the first time a solar energy park has been mooted in Downside.
Two years ago plans were put forward for a 45 acre solar park on site just north of Downside.
Backwell Parish Council has also recommended planning permission for the site be refused.
Councillors said that people in Downside already have to face the expansion of the airport, traffic problems and airport car parks and that the proposal was "unpopular and unwanted".