Fears for farm next to proposed solar array

Liverton Farm

Liverton Farm - Credit: Archant

There are fears that plans to fill three fields encircling an Exmouth farm with solar panels could affect a business run by the same family for 120 years.

Landowners Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) have applied to build the solar panels at Liverton Farm – a livestock farm along Salterton Road.

They say the arrays could power the equivalent of 1,031 homes a year, and is close to a National Grid connection point.

The panel housings would be 2.1m high, 12.2m long and 2.44m wide, with a 15.5 square metre substation in the corner of one field and would cover an area of 10 hectares.

But farmer Stephen Palmer, a friend of the current tenant farmer at Liverton Farm, Bruce Ellett, said: “I know Bruce well, and his family have worked the land for more than a century and from what I can see from the application there is a big problem.

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“It will ruin the landscape and make it very difficult for him to run the farm.”

The design statement says that 40 per cent of the fields would be covered but adds that each array would be ‘appropriately positioned’ to allow access for ‘sheep grazing’.

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Mr Palmer added: “Bruce hasn’t got any sheep – he has got 300 cattle. They are a lot bigger and two of the fields are adjacent to the farm and they are used as nurseries for his calves. One of the other fields lies between two others he also uses for grazing, so he would no longer be able to move his cattle from one field to another as easily. He would have to walk the whole lot around the perimeter of the farm.”

Mr Palmer said he was also concerned that the plans would ruin the ‘beautiful’ landscape and be a ‘visual intrusion’.

He added: “I don’t think people realise the effect on the landscape. How would you like it if your landlord just came along and said ‘I’m going to build a windmill in your back garden.’”

The Journal contacted Mr Ellett but he declined to comment.

A spokesman for Clinton Devon Estates said the firm had researched sustainable energy sources including biomass, wind energy, anaerobic digestion and solar PV since 2008.

The company says the application followed ‘rigorous’ surveys, studies and a two-year trial of a small scale solar PV system.

The spokesman added: “The site is largely hidden from view, screened by existing hedgerows and woodlands, and is outside the East Devon AONB.

“There is an opportunity for the tenant farmer to be involved in the project and its ongoing management by grazing sheep on the land and we are in close contact with him about this and all aspects of the proposal.

“The National Planning Policy states that ‘the responsibility is on all communities to contribute energy generation from renewable sources’ and we intend that Liverton Solar Park will contribute to East Devon’s energy requirements while, at the same time, respecting our environment.”

The final decision will be made by East Devon District Council.

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