THE FINAL decision on whether to build Britain’s biggest solar energy park in the Test Valley countryside could be made by a Government minister.
Romsey MP Caroline Nokes has asked Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles to look at the controversial application for 225,000 solar panels on 200-acres of farmland at Eveley Farm, Houghton.
The land is owned by Test Borough councillor Danny Busk and the application is from German green energy giant Kronos Solar Projects.
Last month the borough’s southern area planning committee went against officers’ advice and approved the scheme. However, because it wasn’t in line with the officers’ advice the council’s planning control members are due to have the final say on the application next Tuesday (August 12).
Ms Nokes said: “I have been approached by a significant number of Broughton residents who are very concerned about the proposal and they have identified two specific issues.
“Firstly, that this proposal will be determined by the planning control committee in mid-August and they are concerned that many people will be away on holiday. They have asked for this to be deferred until the September meeting of the committee. Secondly they would like the Secretary of State to call the application in I emailed Eric Pickles last week asking that and whilst I have received an acknowledgement I have not yet had a substantive response.”
The MP also contacted Test Valley planners to see if the debate on the Kronos plans could be postponed to September.
But Ms Nokes has been told that by the planning department that because people are on holiday when the scheme is debated is “not a sufficient reason” to delay the decision.
Alan Josling from Broughton Against Kronos (BAKS) said: “People should be under no illusions as to the size of this solar farm – it is massive, the area of the solar panels is the same as the two Heathrow runways, and will be in the heart of our beautiful Test Valley. Local people at least deserve to have their voices heard, however holding the meeting in the middle of the school holidays means many people will not be able to attend. Eastleigh District Council, which is next door to Test Valley, does not hold planning meetings in August for this very reason.”
“The planning application is very controversial and the scheme has the potential to have a huge impact on the Test Valley. We strongly urge the Secretary of State to call-in this decision so that the views of local people can be heard.”
Both Broughton and Houghton Parish Councils are against the proposed development. But more than 250 people support the scheme and they claim it will benefit the area producing enough electricity to power 12,500 homes annually.
Munich-based Kronos has solar parks in Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and Wales.