A CONTROVERSIAL scheme to set up a 20,000- solar panel energy farm in the Test Valley has been scuppered by councillors.
Members of Test Valley Borough Council’s northern planning committee voted 17-1 to refuse the plans for 26 acres of arable farmland off Somborne Park Road, south-east of Stockbridge.
This was despite officers’ recommendations to give the scheme the green light.
Officers said the proposals would provide renewable energy which would contribute to reducing climate change.
However, councillors had serious concerns about the impact the proposed hilltop development would have on the National Trust-owned Stockbridge Down and especially nearby Grade-II listed Green Place, which was built in 1906 and designed as a holiday home by renowned architect and artist, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott.
It later became the home of Sir Norman Hill and the author J.B. Priestley’s daughter, Lady Wykeham, who died in 2005.
Over Wallop ward member, Tony Hope, who voted against the proposed development said: “I just felt that this piece of production land should be kept for agriculture, rather than be covered in all these solar panels.
“Also, the site would be visible from viewpoints in and around Stockbridge – one of Test Valley’s jewels in its crown. It would also have really compromised the setting of Grade-II listed Green Place.”
Mr Hope added: “I am yet to be convinced that solar panels are the answer to power production.” Stockbridge Parish Council also criticised the scheme, fearing the proposals would have “a significant detrimental impact” on Green Place and other buildings of “significant heritage” interest.
It also felt that the proposed development would have a “detrimental impact” on the amenity of neighbouring properties and would be visible from other important sites and views, such as Danebury Ring Iron Age hillfort, near Stockbridge, Marsh Court Farm, Stockbridge and Houghton Down and stretches of the River Test.
Planning officers received more than 20 letter and emails from objectors and some of whom feared the solar farm was a development on an “industrial scale” in the heart of the Test Valley which would look completely out of place in the countryside.
Some objectors also feared wildlife, including barn owls, brown hare, foxes and other birds and animals living on the site, would be affected.
However, Natural England, which was consulted about the scheme, raised no objection.
The application was refused on the grounds that the proposals would adversely affect the special character and appearance of Green Place, which is “a designated heritage asset”.