North Devon solar farm size of 80 football pitches sparks opposition
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is fiercely opposing plans to build a giant solar farm in North Devon which would be the size of 80 football pitches.
The North Tawton Eco Park, which is planned to be on land adjacent to the North Tawton Cemetery, has been proposed by developers Kinetica Solar and would be one of the biggest solar farms proposed in the country.
The park will include an education and community resource, enhanced public footpaths and wildflower meadows and will cover 140 acres.
The energy produced at the site could power up to 6,000 homes.
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Penny Mills, the chairman of the Torridge branch of the CPRE, said: “ Two years ago West Devon Borough Council refused planning permission for a large solar farm here on agricultural land adjacent to the Creamery in North Tawton and it was in the 30-40 acre range.
“Now, this proposal is three times bigger - to cover an area of farmland equivalent in size to 80 football pitches - a quarter of a square mile, in solar panels, steel, glass, high security fencing, cctv cameras etc - creating an enormous industrial scene in the middle of the countryside.
“This one must be the largest to date in Devon. These solar farms won't produce electricity when we need it - in the winter, in the dark and the cold.
“Just like wind turbines, this is driven by the Government subsidies, but all of us will be paying on our electricity bills.
“ In Torridge already 1 in 4 are in fuel poverty - how many more will be added as a result of these schemes. In Torridge and West Devon alone now over 1,000 acres of farmland have now either been approved or are under consideration for change of use to solar farms”
But Kinetica Solar Project Director Guy Bebbington believes the project will position North Tawton as an eco-tourism destination.
Guy Bebbington, Project Director at Kinetica said:
"We are in the very early stages of developing our plans for an Eco-Park in North Tawton, and we have engaged at different levels within the local community at this early stage to find out what they would want from an Eco-Park in their community.
"The concept of the Eco-Park is to develop a green space which incorporates a range of educational and environmental resources, and to improve biodiversity and generate clean electricity.
"We passionately believe that the North Tawton Eco-Park can provide a boost to the local economy, create jobs, be a place that local children can learn more about renewable energy whilst also generating clean, green, energy that all will benefit from. We're proud to be working on proposals for an Eco-Park that might play a part in helping West Devon move away from relying on fossil fuels that are harming the environment.
"It is important to us that our proposals improve local biodiversity, we have an exciting partnership with Butterfly Conservation in place and by working with them and other experts we will be doing all we can to have a positive impact on the local environment.
“We are looking to share the benefit of the renewable energy generated with a large local employer in the area, which will reduce business costs and provide long-term energy security.
"We look forward to continuing to talk to people in the local community as we finalise our plans for the Eco-Park."
The planning application for the site is due to be submitted to West Devon Borough Council.