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Solar farm planned for 'Poors Field' is condemned

Plans for a 10 acre community solar farm in Enborne have been laid before West Berkshire Council.

But they have divided the community.

Dozens of objections have been lodged. Now a campaign in support of it has been launched.

The objectors say the site is on land that had been set aside for community use, and that the development of 42 arrays will ruin the local area and increase flooding.

Enborne Community Solar Farm (55256556)
Enborne Community Solar Farm (55256556)

The application site ‘Poors Field’ has historically been used to provide fuel for the poor of the parish of Enborne and is currently used for grazing by a local farmer.

The field is owned by the Poors Allotment Charity, whose trustees are also the councillors of Enborne Parish Council.

As part of their efforts toward energy sustainability, the trustees are proposing to locate solar panels on Poors Field, to generate electricity and reduce the carbon footprint of the parish.

But not everyone is a fan.

“I would rather it not be ‘in my back yard’. There is no doubt it will detract from our enjoyment of our property, both from an aesthetic perspective and from the increased traffic for construction and maintenance,” wrote Nick Smith.

The proposal is to install approximately 4,752 solar panels, mounted as 42 static arrays. Each of the panels will be capable of generating 535w of electricity for a total generation of 2.5 MW.

Enborne solar farm (55256566)
Enborne solar farm (55256566)

“This land is not suitable for a solar farm as is not flat. This land was never intended to be used as a solar farm, it was left for agricultural use for the parish. It spoils the rural look of the area. Financially it doesn’t seem to benefit the parish with huge outlays. It has been said to help the environmental crisis but in fact destroys the countryside by having the solar panels on the land and removing trees/hedges,” said Gemma Murray.

Others are concerned at a health risk from long term exposure to electromagnetic radiation and various hazardous materials.

Further concerns are about additional flood risk from water flowing off the solar panels.

“If you are looking to cause more flooding and environmental damage this is the way to go about it.

“The land serves as a sponge for the properties that sit below it geographically. If you cover that land then the run off will destroy the downstream housing estates,” said Gavin Bailey.

Poors Allotment Charity was renamed the “Enborne Parish Field Charity”. The land was previously held in trust to protect it for the local community

“This is a clear disregard of the purpose of the original trust, and frankly disgraceful and commercially motivated,” wrote Diane Jones.

“A large majority are against this proposal. The parish council are not putting forward the plans with their local community at heart. The application claims a 2:1 majority in favour, but this is clearly not the case.”

Many have also written in to support the move.

“This is a unique opportunity to establish a legacy for the next generation of parishioners in Enborne and it shows an enlightened use of this parish property. It offers a pioneering opportunity for parishioners to bring the ethos of the founding owner and benefactor into the 21st century and provide a steady income for the trustees to use for future parish projects so that all parishioners benefit,” said Deborah Garrett.

“The other aspect of this project which I find very encouraging, is the proposed involvement of Newbury College in monitoring the field as part of their environment support courses. This is an immediate and direct benefit to local young people and shows a benefit beyond the parish. We are not only being environmentally responsible but contributing to the education of the younger members of our society. This is the path we should all be encouraging and the small solar farm on a community owned field should be a beacon of a successful climate change response.”

Enborne Parish Council has backed the plans saying the solar installation will only cover about half of the 20-acre parish field allowing the charity trustees to continue to graze the remaining field area or to convert the area to other community-oriented uses. A wildlife meadow is one possibility that has been mooted.

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