200-acre solar farm between Silchester and Bramley is 'careful and sensitive,' says energy company
THE energy company behind plans to build a 200-acre solar farm between Silchester and Bramley has attempted to ease concerns over the potential harm of the scheme.
Enso Energy submitted proposals last year to build the farm, called Bramley Frith and capable of powering 17,000 homes, on six agricultural fields on the northeast side of Bramley Substation and would operate initially for 40 years.
However, the scheme was met with a backlash by both residents and the local Silchester and Bramley parish councils, which said the scheme would “engulf” the rural gap between the villages.
Now, in an effort to assuage concerns, Enso Energy has produced a lengthy document responding to objectors’ concerns – including the ‘loss of good quality agricultural land’, the ‘detrimental change to the character of the landscape, open fields and farmland’, and the closure of the gap between Bramley and Silchester villages.
Although the company says it recognises the loss of good farmland, it argues there are no poorer quality sites near to Bramley Substation, which it claims the solar farm needs to be close to, and that transforming the agricultural land into a solar farm will be “temporary” and “easily reversible”.
The company plans to return the site to agricultural use after 40 years.
In the document, Enso Energy states: “The careful and sensitive design of the proposed development has meant that the potential for this amenity, recreational and wildlife enjoyment has largely been maintained and in some areas enhanced.”
The company also promises to retain existing trees and hedgerow field boundaries with “extensive” new planting along the site boundaries to shield the solar farm from view, and claims that its work will guarantee “a significant boost to the wildlife biodiversity of the area with a net gain of 37.45 per cent for habitat and 23.25 per cent for hedgerow”.
Lastly, it argues that half of the gap between Silchester and Bramley will be retained as arable fields, with the development maintaining “a clear gap" between the settlements allowing each to retain their separate identity.
However, Silchester Parish Council has already dismissed Enso Energy’s comments, accusing the company of a “complete lack of understanding of the manner in which residents enjoy the amenity of this landscape.”
It continues: “As we previously stated, the proposals do little to maintain the sense of place, the sense of tranquillity and remoteness, or the quiet enjoyment of the landscape from public rights of way.”
It also disputes the company’s claim that the development won’t overly impact the gap between the villages.
It adds: “When travelling between Bramley and Silchester, the majority of travelers will make the journey by road, rather than ‘as the crow flies’.
“Their experience of open countryside, i.e. the rural gap, will be greatly reduced by this proposal.”
The company’s comments as well as the parish council’s response can be viewed in full by going to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s planning portal and entering the reference 20/03403/FUL.