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Planning appeal for huge solar farm between Silchester and Bramley going to public inquiry at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council

Controversial plans for a huge solar farm to be built between Silchester and Bramley are going to a public inquiry.

The initial application for the 200-acre farm was refused in April, but an appeal was lodged against the decision in August.

One of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s planning inspectors will be hosting a public inquiry at the council offices on Tuesday, December 13, at 10am.

Where the solar farm would be built
Where the solar farm would be built

The application, called Bramley Frith, would see a farm the size of around 140 football pitches, built on fields around Bramley substation for a “temporary” period of 40 years.

This farm would be capable of powering around 11,700 homes, as well as displacing 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, every year.

The solar farm has had a large amount of backlash from the local community, with 96 per cent of the 711 public comments on the original planning application opposing the scheme.

The Bramley Solar Farm Residents Group formed in opposition to the plans and it has encouraged objectors to attend next week’s inquiry.

In a leaflet titled ‘Bramley and Silchester needs you’, the group said: “We support the principle of solar farms, but this one is the wrong size, wrong type, wrong place and wrong company.

“We are also concerned that although the installation is claimed to be ‘temporary’, there do not appear to be guaranteed funds for decommissioning – so we could be stuck with derelict equipment blighting out good quality agricultural land and pathways for generations to come.”

As well as the impact on agricultural land and lack of benefit for local residents, concerns have also been raised about the threat the solar farm would have on the Silchester Roman Ruins.

Michael Fulford CBE, who is the director of the Silchester Roman Life, Town Life and Environs Iron Age Projects at the University of Reading, said the solar farm – roughly a mile south of the Silchester Roman ruins – would threaten potential future discoveries in the area.

In an objection letter, he said: “This proposed development threatens our ability over the medium and longer term to advance our knowledge of the landscape context of the unique monument that is Iron Age and Roman Calleva.

“While the development itself may do less than substantial harm to the individual heritage assets which it may affect, its nature, and the very reasonable assumption that continued demand for energy generated in this way will continue for the foreseeable future, means that these assets are effectively lost to future research.”

In an effort to assuage concerns, Enso Energy, the company behind the solar farm plans, produced a lengthy document responding to objectors’ concerns last August.

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”.

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.”

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