A PROPOSED giant solar farm near Thornbury that has sparked more than 100 objections is set to be approved by councillors.

The renewable energy plant is proposed at Varley Farm in Talbots End, between the B4058 Bristol Road, Cromhall, and Wickwar Quarry.

A total of 122 residents and the parish council have objected to the plans, which South Gloucestershire Council officers are recommending for approval by the development management committee on Thursday, January 18.

The 54-hectare site would generate enough power for 8,300 homes and provide a significant contribution to the district’s green energy, a report to the meeting said.

It would have a 40-year life, with the 15 agricultural fields then returned to farming use.

Cllr John O’Neill (Lib Dem, Charfield), who has referred the application to the committee for a decision in public, said: “This proposal will create harm to landscape, listed buildings and is compromising policy.

“With eight solar farms within a five-mile radius this type of proposal is being concentrated with the loss of countryside.”

Village is being “hemmed in by massive solar farm projects”

Cromhall Parish Council “strongly objects” to the development which it said would have an “overall negative impact on not just the immediate neighbours of the planned site, but the village and wider community”.

It said: “The land at Varley farm is largely rated as good with moderate viability for a range of crops and so serves a real and on the doorstep benefit to the local food production and farming community.

“The agricultural land is a rich diverse organic grassland habitat that will no longer be producing food for the country.

“Access off the B4058 onto Farleigh Lane is dangerous and routing all traffic to the solar farm along this narrow lane would be hazardous and unsafe for pedestrians and village vehicles.

“The temporary roadway off Farleigh Lane will mean hedgerow destruction and the removal of limbs from an ancient oak tree. 

“That there is a well-established biodiversity of grasslands, hedgerows and wildlife including deer species, hare, badgers and foxes on Varley Farm, and fencing around the area will restrict free movement of those animals.

“This planning proposal will mean there will be approximately 292 acres of solar cells within a one-mile radius.

“This quantity of land devoted to solar energy production is harmful to the community of Cromhall.

“We are concerned over the reduction to Cromhall residents’ access to public footpaths, walks in nature and wellbeing.”

The parish council also said the village was being “hemmed in by massive solar farm projects”.

Benefits "outweigh" the harms, report says 

But the officers’ report said the benefits outweighed the harms.

It said: “This proposal would provide up to 25MW of renewable energy generation that will be transferred into the local grid network via the existing power lines on site.

“A biodiversity net gain would be achieved on site through the reinforcement of existing hedgerows, the planting of new hedgerows and trees and also through the planting of native grass species and wildflowers throughout the site.

“The site would also be used to graze sheep between the rows of solar panels, made possible by the installation of a sheep handling system.

“It is concluded that there is harm that is at the very lower end of the scale of less than substantial harm to the setting of the Grade II-listed The Gables and the Grade II-listed Talbot End House.

“Great weight must be attributed to this harm.”

The report said the project’s clear benefits must be given substantial weight.

“It is considered that the public benefit from the provision of the solar farm outweighs any residual harm to the listed buildings, the landscape character of the site and the lack of significant community support,” the report added.

Eighteen residents have written in support of the plans.