Campaigners have hailed a decision to throw out plans for two major solar farms in the Shropshire countryside as a “victory for democracy”.
Cheers and applause filled the room at Shrewsbury’s Shirehall as not one, but two solar farm proposals were rejected by Shropshire Council’s south planning committee, after months of campaigning by opponents.
Both a 54-acre solar farm at Henley Bank, Acton Scott, and 43-acres of panels at Whitton, near Ludlow, were refused planning permission after hours of debate, despite being recommended for approval by Shropshire Council’s planning officers.
Yesterday it was standing room only in the council chamber as dozens packed in to hear the verdict on the plans.
Many of the objectors had staged protests at site visits, and outside Shirehall, earlier in the day.
Peter van Duijvenvoorde, chairman of campaign group Save South Shropshire Countryside, said: “As you can see from the reaction here, we’re delighted at the council’s rejection of these rotten schemes.
“It has renewed my faith in democracy and the effects of local opinion.
“This has been a real team effort and without us working together we wouldn’t have got this result.
“This is not just a victory for Whitton, but for Acton Scott.
“It’s not just about one community, it’s about preserving the countryside.”
The Acton Scott proposal was turned down by councillors on the grounds that it was within the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Jamie Wrench, vice chairman of Stretton Climate Care, spoke in favour of the scheme.
He said the area was a working agricultural landscape of which the solar farm would be only a small part, and it would generate enough electricity to power a significant part of Church Stretton.
Andrew Bower, speaking on behalf of applicants Maddox and Associates, said “I don’t believe anybody can find a better screened suitable site in this part of Shropshire.”
He said £59,000 would be pumped back into the community over 20 years if the scheme went ahead.
But committee member Councillor Robert Tindall said: “ I believe by allowing this go ahead we are driving a coach and horses through the AONB.”
Councillor Cecilia Motley said: “We cannot avoid the fact that this is slap bang in the middle of it.”
Councillor Andy Boddington and Nigel Hartin agreed the scheme had benefits, but could not support it because of the visual impact in such a sensitive area.
The Whitton plans were unanimously refused after 179 objections were submitted to the council.
Guy Maxfield, speaking for applicants EBS Energy LLP, said it was not within any designated “sensitive landscape”.
However, Councillor Tindall said it was still on the border of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the plans were industrial in nature and size.
Councillor Boddington said there were some concessions to wildlife, but not on a par with the plans for Acton Scott – and importantly the land was not poor quality farmland, but good quality acerage.
Mr van Duijvenvoorde said campaigners would be focussing on a decision on another proposed solar farm at Tasley, near Bridgnorth, next.Subscribe to our Newsletter