PLANS to develop a solar farm near Winchester have received a much warmer welcome than similar developments elsewhere in the county.

Orta Solar, a development, project management and construction company, released plans that may see a new solar farm built east on the B3043 south of Hursley.

Similar schemes near Stockbridge, Itchen Stoke and Bishop's Sutton, near Alresford, have been stronly opposed by local people.

The site, known as Field House Farm, will cover approximately 32 acres of land which will consist of rows of solar photovoltaic arrays up to 2.6m high assembled on a metal framework.

The plans also include four to five small single story cabins containing electrical equipment.

The proposal is to include wide avenues of grassland between the arrays to attract wildlife and provide rough grazing for sheep and the perimeter will have additional planting to ensure further screening.

Orta Solar, who are based in Andover, claim the farm will provide enough energy for over 1,700 homes saving 1,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

District Cllr Jan Warwick said: “The application will of course need to go through the formal planning process however as with any new proposal early discussions with local residents is key and I am pleased Orta presented to Hursley Parish Council and also held a public exhibition. This gave residents and councillors an opportunity to ask questions and seek reassurance about all sorts of areas such as vehicle access during the construction process, visibility of the panels from the surrounding areas, screening around the site, risk to wildlife, potential noise, the energy output and benefits to the local community. Members of the parish council generally welcomed the development.

“My personal view is there is no doubt renewable energy will help offer energy security, support the local economy and contribute to a lower carbon district. However it is also very important for energy companies to consult widely with the local community and consider the views of nearby residents as well as considering where the proposed scheme will sit within the landscape.”

Murray Weston, 61, a film and TV consultant of Main Road on the outskirts of Hursley, said: “I’ve been watching the reports and, personally, I think they are a good thing. I think it’s in a place where you can’t see very easily. It might just be possible walking along a footpath nearby that you might just spy it.

“So far as I understand you can still have animals grazing on the land so it’s still used and my general view is that they’re not too bad.”

Hursley Parish clerk, John Brooks, said: “The only concern people have raise is the issue of traffic during construction but that’s going to happen whenever you’re building.

“The parish council has no problem with the concept of the solar farm, it’s much quieter than a wind farm, and it seems that’s the way energy sourcing is headed. It seems to be an acceptable sort of site.”

Chair of Hampshire Renewable Energy Group (HREC), Dennis Garrison, said: “HREC want to develop a Local Energy Fund to make Hampshire and Winchester more self reliant and less dependent on foreign companies to provide energy into the county and district.

“I believe we export almost £1/2 billion in revenue to all the large foreign owned energy companies from the area each year. Solar is a great way to start keeping part of that outflow of taxed income here in our area, whilst creating local jobs and commerce. I think Hampshire County Council is awakening to the benefits of renewable solar energy in the area now. And who knows, Winchester City Council may be, too.”