Plan for solar park in Sidbury’s AONB causes concern

AONB towards Sidbury

AONB towards Sidbury - Credit: Archant

Plans for a solar park in Sidbury were blasted by Sidmouth town councillors, who said the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) must be protected.

Opposition to the proposal from Crowpits Solar Park Ltd for the development on Coombe Estate was almost unanimous at a planning meeting last week, with only one councillor speaking in favour of the development.

The plans include installation of a 9.9 megawatt photovoltaic park, with numerous solar panels and associated inverter and substations, transformers and security fencing.

Councillor Ian Barlow led a stream of objections to the proposed development, describing himself as ‘a bit of a hypocrite’, but said it is not necessary for the development to go in the earmarked area in Sidbury.

“Let’s not let our AONB go for something that is not something of value to our community,” he said.

“I am against it. We need to protect it for walkers and people in the future.”

The planning application states the proposed solar park will bring benefits to the local community, in terms of job opportunities and generation of renewable energy, but Cllr Jeff Turner refuted this claim.

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He said: “It is disingenuous to say it is for the benefit of the local community - it makes a profit for the company that wants to install it.”

Cllr Kelvin Dent said: “Is there any overriding reason for siting it in the AONB? The answer is no.”

Developers have outlined precautions taken to ensure the site causes minimal visual disruption.

The plans state it is not visible from the public right of way or other publicly accessible areas due to the dense nature of the surrounding countryside.

Cllr John Hollick, a ward member for Sidbury, was the only person to speak in favour of the proposals, saying they would cause minimal visual disruption.

He said: “I am not in favour of these developments at all, in fact I am very much against solar farms.”

But he concluded, having surveyed the proposed site, he would support the plans.

The district council will decide.

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