John Nettles and campaigners LOSE battle over UK's biggest solar farm

Midsomer Murders star John Nettles will have one of the UK’s largest solar farms on his doorstep after councillors voted in favour of the massive scheme this afternoon. 

Torridge district councillors in Devon granted permission for the massive solar farm on agricultural land at Derril Water, near Pyworthy.

The scheme will see the installation of 76,000 solar panels on four pieces of land including 28 fields and will be surrounded by security fencing, 85 CCTV cameras on poles and 15 inverter substations in industrial containers, each with hard-standing

The council’s planning committee approved the scheme by five votes to four despite more than 200 objections and a campaign by countryside charity Devon CPRE spearheaded by the actor, who moved to the area around a decade ago and has a smallholding near the site.

The Bergerac star had presented a short video campaigning against the scheme, arguing there are already six solar farms in the area, including Devon’s biggest on 109 acres at Pitworthy.

Nettles branded it a ‘hideous scheme’ and said : ‘I am not a NIMBY, I am a NIABY — not in anyone’s backyard.’

Actor John Nettles is trying to kill plans for a huge solar farm near his home in Pyworthy, Devon

Local campaigner Mike Godfrey is leading a group of residents as they protest against plans to build a new solar farm in near the village of Pyworthy, Devon

Actor John Nettles has joined a campaign led by Mike Godfrey (right) to kill plans for one of the UK’s largest solar farms on a large stretch of land in Pyworthy, Devon, near the actor’s home

Locals said the development would ruin the landscape but the company behind it argued it would provide low-cost, low-carbon power for around 12,000 homes.

Mr Nettles also says that ‘local residents feel enough is enough’ and that the scheme would ‘desecrate the pastoral vista in this part of Devon’ and turn it into an ‘industrialised landscape’.

Describing the plans as ‘hideous’, the actor, who keeps donkeys and horses on a plot of land near Holsworthy, added: ‘People need to understand the enormous scale and visual impact of these solar farms.’

Mark Mariott has ploughed his life savings into a holiday lettings business which will overlook the solar farm.

He said he would not have invested in this agricultural and tourist area if he had been aware of the plan and said: ‘Green energy should be on brown field sites.’

Actor Nettles said: ‘Obviously we all need to reduce our carbon footprint but it’s a question of getting the right balance.’

He said these solar farms will ‘desecrate the pastoral vista in this part of Devon turning it into an industrialised landscape of solar panels across 28 fields’.

Local Roger Norsworthy said: ‘This project is about greed not green and the local environment and community are simply collateral damage.’

The applicant, RES Energy Ltd, wants permission for 40 years for the 66.33 hectare site, equal to just under 164 acres. Pictured: Concept images show the wide-spanning solar farm plans

The applicant, RES Energy Ltd, wants permission for 40 years for the 66.33 hectare site, equal to just under 164 acres.Pictured: Concept images show the wide-spanning solar farm plans

The Devon Campaign to Protect Rural England director Penny Mills said: ‘This part of Devon is on the verge of being ruined.’

Despite the concerns, a 47-page report by Torridge District Council’s planning officer recommended the go-ahead for the solar farm in the week when the world debates how to reduce the impact of climate change at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow.

The applicant, Renewable Energy Systems, RES, stated: ‘As we transition to a net-zero future, reducing the impacts of climate change both locally and globally, RES’ priority is to deliver clean, green electricity at the lowest cost for consumers. 

Torridge District Council announced their own climate emergency in August 2019, whereby the council have committed to a target of ‘net zero carbon emissions from their operations by 2030. 

Councillors were told the project’s overall CO2 savings are anticipated to be approximately 18,6003 tonnes per annum, making a contribution to the UK’s target of reaching net zero by 2050.

Opponents said the council ignored detailed information provided by 213 local objectors and two parish councils, supporting their opposition to the 164acre proposal across four separate parcels of land on 28 fields. 

The proposal for the structure with nearly 76,000 panels would span 66 hectares, becoming the largest solar farm in the county. Pictured above: An existing solar farm in Pyworthy, Devon

The proposal for the structure with nearly 76,000 panels would span 66 hectares, becoming the largest solar farm in the county.Pictured above: An existing solar farm in Pyworthy, Devon

The CPRE, Campaign to Protect Rural England, had stated: ‘The planning officer’s extensive report reduces the technical arguments put forward by objectors to a list of bullet points.

‘In contrast, pages of information from bodies such as Natural England and Highways are given in full.’

In May Devon CPRE launched a video campaign fronted by Bergerac and Midsomer Murders star John Nettles who has a smallholding near the site.

The video, including drone footage of Pyworthy’s existing solar installations and the site of the proposed new one, Panele podłogowe has since received almost 17,500 views.

Devon CPRE says that over four thousand acres of farmland in Devon, more than seven square miles of agricultural land, Panele podłogowe have already been developed for solar farms, and plans for several other massive solar installations are yet to be decided.

Before planning permission was granted, Dr Phil Bratby, Devon CPRE trustee and energy spokesperson, said: ‘There are several existing solar farms surrounding the small village of Pyworthy, including one on the south-eastern boundary of the proposed site and another about a kilometre away.

Developers say the scheme would generate enough electricity to supply around 12,100 homes, displacing 18,608 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and 'contributing to the UK's 2050 target'

Developers say the scheme would generate enough electricity to supply around 12,100 homes, displacing 18,608 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and ‘contributing to the UK’s 2050 target’

‘Three together would turn this rural part of Devon into an industrialised landscape of solar panels and security fencing stretching across 28 fields.

‘How is this a good use of some of the best pasture land in the whole of the county?’

Devon CPRE had urged the committee to refuse planning permission at its meeting on Thursday on two main grounds, the industrialising effect on the landscape of this and other existing solar farms, wind turbines and energy infrastructure in the immediate locality; and the loss of agricultural land. 

The company argued the site is mostly on lower grade agricultural land, Panele which would be taken out of crop use but could still be used for light grazing, and it could be returned at the end of the life of the solar farm 

The solar energy industry says the UK needs to triple capacity by 2030 to meet its carbon reduction targets.

Devon CPRE is urging the committee to refuse planning permission due to the loss of farmland for 40 years, and the ‘industrialising effect on the landscape’.

Only a mile from Upper Tamar Area of Great Landscape Value, they say more than seven square miles of agricultural land have already been developed for solar farms and plans for several other massive solar installations are yet to be decided.