Activists dress as rabbits in protest against solar farm near Watership Down field

Proposals in Hampshire face backlash from local residents who say it is a ‘money-making exercise’

Business May 30, 2024 /idopress/

Residents who live near Strattons Farm in Kingsclere oppose plans to build a solar farm

Credit: Sheila Openshaw/Solent News & Photo Agency

Campaigners opposed to a large solar farm near the site that inspired Watership Down have dressed up as rabbits to protest against the development.

Plans for the solar farm,which were first unveiled last year,have faced a backlash from residents who say the “green corridor” and ancient woodland should not be “spoilt” to make way for the solar farm.

The site,on the Hampshire-Berkshire border,was said to have inspired Richard Adams when he wrote the 1972 novel,which follows a group of rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren.

To protest the development,campaigners dressed up as bunnies and lay under solar panels near placards reading “Grass not Glass” and “This is not in keeping with this beautiful countryside”.

Anglo Renewables,a solar development company,applied for official permission last month to build the “renewable energy generating station” on Strattons Farm,Kingsclere,Hampshire.

More than 300 objections lodged

Since then,more than 300 objections have been lodged to the website from furious locals who said the site was not suitable for such a development.

Sheilah Openshaw,described the area as a “tranquil landscape” and an “area of natural beauty”.

She said she had a “keen interest in conservation” but the development asked the question “What is more important,food or energy?”.

Mrs Openshaw was involved in a campaign,which took place earlier this month,in which protesters informed local people of the plans.

Pictures of the protest show “rabbits” trapped under solar panels.

A protester dressed as a rabbit 'trapped' under a solar panel

Credit: Sheila Openshaw/Solent News & Photo Agency

“We can actually generate electricity elsewhere,” Mrs Openshaw said,“If we replace fields that are growing food with solar panels where are we going to grow the food?.”

‘Solar farm is greenwashing’

Mrs Openshaw suggested brownfield sites – like “car parks and roofs” – were better suited for solar farms and stated some of the land will resemble “concentration camps” if the proposal goes ahead.

“This is a much bigger picture than just one solar farm,” she continued.

“I believe in green issues but I think you have got to look at it in a round way.

“As far as I’m concerned,this solar farm is greenwashing – it’s not really green,I think it’s purely a money-making exercise.”

The resident,in her 60s,said she was also concerned about the effect the development would have on drivers using the nearby A339 road who will be subjected to “glint and glare” as light reflects off the panels.

The application states that 17.94 hectares of the 29.4 hectares of land will be covered with panels.

The solar farm is planned to cover the areas outlined in red

Credit: Solent News & Photo Agency

This will power more than 5,700 family homes.

Writing an objection,Alan Monger,a local resident,said: “I live in an area of natural beauty.

“There are lots of amazing walks and fantastic views from the downs,soon to be spoilt if this plan goes ahead.

“If farming land is used to generate electricity we will need to import even more food. Transporting food from far and wide is not green.

“I have solar panels on my house and I know that they are useless in the winter and in the summer they are only amazing when the sun shines which is not often in the UK.

“We are going to need farming land for food.”

Design has been modified

According to the planning application,the development would operate for a temporary period of 40 years.

It says that upon decommissioning,the site would return to its original use for agriculture.

James Stone,managing director at Anglo Renewables,said: “Our proposed solar farm aligns with Basingstoke and Deane District Council’s acknowledgment of a climate emergency and the establishment of national climate change goals mandated by law.

“We have carefully considered the input from the local community and have recently modified the project design,to address the matters they have raised.

“The size of the solar farm has reduced by approximately 16.5 acres – a reduction of 19 per cent.

“We have removed panels in the southern and western portions of the proposed scheme,moving panels away from residential properties and Ecchinswell.”

Members of the public are still being consulted on the plans. An internal decision is expected to be made on July 12.

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