Major solar farm approved despite concerns

PUBLISHED: 09:03 05 October 2014

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Plans for a major solar farm between Woodbury and Lympstone have been given the go-ahead, despite strong opposition from councillors.

The 47-acre facility at Coombe Farm, south of Stony Lane, will be capable of generating eight-megawatts of electricity a year – enough to power more than 1,500 homes.

The application from renewable energy firm RES was approved by East Devon District Council’s development management committee when it met last week.

As part of the scheme, RES plans to screen the panels from view by allowing hedges surrounding the site to grow taller than usual. But Councillor Ben Ingham told the committee that Stony Lane was the ‘prettiest road in to Lympstone’ and provided ‘one of the most beautiful views of the estuary’.

“Although you are able to screen these solar panels, when you do, you ruin the view,” he added. “Either that view is precious to us, or it is not.”

Cllr Ingham, who represents Woodbury and Lympstone, said that Lympstone Parish Council was in the process of drawing up a neighbourhood plan – a document compiling residents’ views for future development in the parish.

He said that although RES had hosted engagement events with residents, the scheme did not have the support of the community.

He added: “If you have a neighbourhood plan, if you are in the process of doing that, then you are duty bound to respect the community’s opinion.”

But Councillor Mark Williamson pointed out that the committee had approved similar applications in other parts of the district, and said there was a ‘whole host’ of mitigation measures in place to limit the visual and environmental impact of the scheme.

He said: “I think the evidence actually supports the officer’s recommendation that this should be approved.”

A proposal by Cllr Ingham to refuse the application was defeated by five votes to six, and the scheme was approved.

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