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Residents unite in protest against plans for 25,000-unit solar farm

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 24, 2013

By Simon Parker

The Church of St Endellion, beloved of Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, is close to the proposed site of a 25,000-panel solar farm   PICTURE: NEIL LINDSAY

The Church of St Endellion, beloved of Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, is close to the proposed site of a 25,000-panel solar farm PICTURE: NEIL LINDSAY

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Opponents of plans for a 25,000-unit solar farm in North Cornwall will be putting their case to councillors today.

A group of residents from St Endellion, near Port Isaac, are calling on members of Cornwall Council to reject an application for 40 acres of photo-voltaic panels on farmland near their homes and businesses. They say the proposed development at Treswarrow Farm will ruin rural views and adversely affect tourism in the area.

However, campaigners in favour of an increase in renewable energy sources argue that not only are solar panels and wind turbines cleaner and greener but they will strengthen the local economy by creating jobs.

The proposed solar farm would be situated not far from the 15th century Church of St Endellion, which was eulogised in a poem of the same name by Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, who wrote: "St Endellion! St Endellion! The name is like a ring of bells."

Leading today's delegation to County Hall in Truro is farmer Mark Symons, whose land and business at Trevathan Farm in St Endellion is close to the proposed site.

Mr Symons, who has the support of St Endellion and St Kew parish councils, said that while he wasn't against all renewable energy applications, they should "not take over the countryside".

"Our business is reliant to some extent on holidaymakers because we have a restaurant, farm shop and holiday cottages," he said. "A lot of our visitors have said they could be put off if these things spoil our view – because we have such a good view."

To soften the visual impact of the development, Clean Earth Energy Limited, the firm submitting the application, has offered to provide a community fund of £6,000 per year for the 20 years the solar farm is expected to operate. CEE says it intends to set up a committee of local people to decide which worthy causes receive the cash.

As well as the visual impact of the solar farm, objectors claim the development would reduce the amount of good agricultural land in the area. The fields at Treswarrow Farm are rated by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as Grade 3A land. Mr Symons will tell councillors that approval would go against the Government's own National Planning Policy Framework which advises against building on productive farmland.

"This is the criteria laid down by of the Government," he said. "They could be using roofs instead of land. There is so much agricultural roof-space around, as well as on other industrial buildings.

"We're only trying to speak up for people in Cornwall. Tourism is important to Cornwall and this could really affect that. If you allow one – especially if it's 25,000 panels – we'll get more and more. Our part of Cornwall is pretty clear of them at the moment and we'd like it to stay that way."

Tim Andrewes, who represents the Green Party on Cornwall Council, said that while he understood the objections, the case for moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources had never been stronger, particularly in Cornwall.

"It's really important that Cornwall doesn't turn its back on these exciting developments," he said.

Cornwall's Strategic Planning Committee will decide the matter after today's meeting.

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