Published: 06:00, 04 December 2014
Plans to construct and operate a solar farm in Paddock Wood have been given the green light by the council.
The 25-year development will bring over 90,000 solar panels to Knells Farm in Pearson's Green Road and should power 2,760 homes per year.
The application was put before Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's planning committee this evening and after much discussion was unanimously approved.
Luminous Energy - the company behind the solar farm - said the overall construction would take approximately 16 weeks.
It comes just weeks after another solar park was given the go-ahead in Tonbridge - despite concerns that the site would be on green belt land.
At the planning meeting held in the council's chambers members listened to speakers from the area who are concerned about the possible impacts of the development.
Simon Roberts who lives in Pearson's Green Road asked how the council thought that granting the farm approval was acceptable.
He said: "This would majorly impact on me and my family and the glare from the panels would be just intolerable.
"I have battled planning applications on this land for 25 years so I don't see how the council is planning to approve this one."
"This would majorly impact on me and my family and the glare from the panels would be just intolerable" - Simon Roberts
A condition of the application states that the developers must line the area with new hedging and plants to reduce the visual impact of the panels.
However, Mr Roberts doesn't believe this will be an effective method of mitigation.
He added: "Screening with plants would help slightly but only when they are in leaf."
Mike Rogers from Belectric UK a company also working on the project said developers will bring educational resources and courses to the area.
He added: "We would like to partner with schools to provide educational programmes to educate children about renewable energy and biodiversity."
Samantha May, daughter of landowner Peter May said her family had worked on Knells Farm for over 80 years and thought about the decision to allow a solar park on their land for quite a while.
She said: "My father is 70-years-old and we have been farming fields for 80 years now. We have battled a lot of problems over the years including two bad frosts which caused us to lose a lot of produce and in 2012 we lost a whole apple crop.
"My father is passionate about the countryside and he wants the people of Tunbridge Wells to be surrounded by beautiful farms.
"He has been approached many times in the past with applications but refused them all apart from this one. It is not a permanent fixture and it will secure the future of our farm for another two decades."
The planning committee's report produced ahead of the meeting stated that the application should be approved for a number of reasons including; the fact that the merits of the case weigh in favour of the proposal; it would result in the delivery of sustainable development; it would not give rise to in an increase in flood risk and there would not be any significant adverse impact upon occupants of neighbouring properties.
Paddock Wood Town Council was the only authority to object to the application as it believed it would have a negative impact on wildlife, insufficient benefit and increased flood risk.
The Highways Agency, Environmental Health, Natural England and Southern Water were among those that had no objections.
Speaking after the meeting director of Luminous Energy, Joylon Orchard said: "The farm will consist of around 90,000 panels, but although this sounds a lot, our panels are half the size of the ones people are used to seeing.
"So it works out to be the same size as other solar farms in the area. We are delighted at the unanimous decision. After seeing two contentious planning applications for solar parks go through the council, we were nervous about the reaction, but it was not within green belt land so it went through fine.
"We are delighted."
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