A PLAN to combine solar panels and sheep on a 40 acre farm site beside a conservation village mentioned in the Domesday Book is generating some fierce opposition.
Northallerton businessman David Kerfoot and his neighbours have announced their opposition to proposals to install 29,528 1.6m by 1m photovoltaic panels across fields currently used for sheep grazing, at Ainderby Steeple, near Northallerton.
Two nearby schemes, proposed by farmers Stuart Charlton and Philip Sanderson, would see sheep continue to graze the land beneath the panels, which would be mounted on poles, eight foot above the ground.
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Objectors say views from the village and the grade I listed St Helen’s Church would be ruined, and highlight that the Wensleydale heritage railway runs along the boundary of the solar farm site.
Planning agents for the farmers said the schemes would generate energy to supply more than 1,600 homes and said hedgerows would be planted to screen the farm, which would be operated on the land for 20 years.
They stated: “The addition of the solar farm would not result in any change in the character of the village itself and although would result in a change in elements of its setting, it is not considered that this represents a significant change.
“The proposed solar farm would introduce a new land use to the area, but the retention of existing hedgerows with reinforcement planting to fill and enhance the density of the vegetation cover would minimise the perception of the development throughout the year.”
The National Grid has raised concerns over the proximity of its high pressure transmission gas pipes to the proposed site, while Natural England said the proposal may present opportunities to enhance the landscape and wildlife at the site and bring benefits to the community.
David Kerfoot, chairman of vegetable oils business The Kerfoot Group, said allowing the scheme would set a precedent which could lead to the village being surrounded by solar farms.
Mr Kerfoot: “The sheer size of these schemes will dominate the countryside which is not acceptable.”
His neighbours have claimed house prices in the village would fall by up 15 per cent and that Ainderby Steeple would become known as “the solar panel village”.
Resident Edward Jones wrote: “To call it a solar farm or, as the applicant and agent referred to it at the recent parish meeting, a solar park is an utter delusion and an insult to our intelligence.
“It certainly would not be a park, nor would it any longer look like a farm.”
It is understood the scheme will be considered by Hambleton District Council’s planning committee next month.