OVER 72,000 solar panels could be built on fields below Stinchcombe Hill if a planning application is approved but residents fear it will be a “blot on the landscape”.

Around 40 hectares of fields by Manor Farm in Upper Wick could be used for the massive solar farm, potentially producing up to 18megawatts, enough to power 2,000 homes.

On behalf of Upper Wick Solar Farm Ltd, planning consultants Maddox and Associates have submitted the application for the panels, which will reach 2.2metres in height and cover an area the size of almost 40 international rugby pitches.

A brief consultation was held on April 29 at North Nibley Village Hall but only received 29 visitors, with 21 rejecting the plan.

In response to the consultation, the three most easterly fields of the initial proposal have been removed, reducing the site size by 14.6 per cent.

No permanently switched on lighting is proposed and the solar farm will operate for 30 years before being dismantled and removed.

Sue Devine and her husband Iain have lived on Church Lane in North Nibley for 35 years and are adamant it is the wrong place for such a large-scale construction.

“People come here to enjoy the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) but this will be a blot on the landscape ,” she said.

“The development is just for profit for people who live far away.”

David Chalmers from Fairfield House in North Nibley said the area was already recognised as having one of the most beautiful views in the country.

“It is a huge site and will dominate and change irrevocably the view from the escarpment to its detriment,” he said.

“There are many brown field sites across the county which would be far more acceptable rather than putting a domineering structure within the landscape.”

Horsley resident Rosalind Neely said it was an inappropriate use of agricultural land.

“The installation of such a large number of solar panels will spoil a beautiful location that is very close to an AONB,” she said.

"The solar panels will be highly visible from sites within the AONB and from the Cotswold Way.”

Another solar farm is already planned nearby at Upper Huntingford Farm in Charfield.

The fields adjacent to the proposed solar farm are also the site of a famous battle between Lord Berkeley and Lord Lisle in 1469, believed to be the last battle fought with private armies in England.

A spokesman for national charity Battlefields Trust said they opposed the application because it would likely damage potential archaeological finds.

“Archaeological evidence of artillery use from this period is a scarce and vital resource in understanding of the development of firepower and the inadvertent loss through the works proposed would be significant,” he said.

He added that if the development was permitted, there should be a condition that a detailed archaeological survey should be carried out in advance.

Planning manager for Maddox Associates, Tom Darwall-Smith, said the power generated could provide enough electricity for a fifth of the Stroud district, based on 2007 estimates.

“This location is exceptional because the electricity grid has spare capacity, which is vital for solar farm development, and offers potential for physical connection to the grid,” he said.

“The impact on views has been comprehensively assessed and found very limited visibility from the AONB, which will retain its characteristics and special qualities.

“Existing hedges will screen the proposals from much of the surrounding area and additional hedges will be planted in any gaps.”