AROUND 40,000 solar panels could be installed on nearly 20 hectares of land after the committee failed to come to a decision over a green energy proposal.
Committee members heard that the proposed solar farm would be installed on previously undeveloped agricultural land in Farley Hill between Swallowfield and Arborfield and provide enough electricity to power 3,376 households. It would have permission for 40 years after which, the land would need to be cleared and returned to it previous state.
Planning officers noted that the farm would have some impact on the environment, but the benefits outweighed those concerns.
Jonathan Wheelwright from Swallowfield Parish Council objected, saying that this is not a farm, but a “hugely industrialised site” and changes the use of the land.
“It’s hard to find a more obtrusive location,” he said, adding that there were alternative sites available nearby and that the planning officers had been wrong in their conclusions.
Resident Harry Cannon spoke on behalf of 89 residents, saying it was a nice idea, but in the wrong place, and would be visible from miles around including Shinfield and Eversley.
He said: “It’s put between villages and hamlets … and listed buildings”.
Richard Wearmouth from Wessex Solar, which would build the site, said that the project would help Wokingham Borough Council achieve its aims with tackling the climate emergency.
“Additional screening is proposed and will be actively maintained through the lifetime of the site,” he said, promising fencing and tree planting.
Ward councillor for Swallowfield, which adjoins the site, Cllr Stuart Munro, said that he had been comments from around 80 or 90 residents and that while he was in favour of solar panels, but “this may be in the wrong place … I urge the committee to listen to the residents”.
As the committee was unsure whether the site was the correct location for such a farm, a decision was deferred so more information could be gathered ahead of a meeting that took place last night.
A report on this will appear in next week’s Wokingham.Today.