Divisive plans for a “monstrous” solar farm to be built around a remote village could knock tens of thousands of pounds off property prices, residents fear.
Estate agents also say if Evolution Power builds its 400-acre farm near Aldington, Ashford, those living there will flee as prices plummet.
Evolution hopes to develop the expanse of land into a solar and battery storage project, spanning the size of 250 football pitches while powering 48,000 homes in the next three years.
If successful, the Stonestreet Green Solar farm will dwarf the village by about ten to one.
Campaigner Derek Bules says the market value of housing with the village has already been rocked, with one home reportedly losing £200,000 of its market value.
“I believe everyone’s homes will be affected in some way because it will be a less desirable place to live,” he said.
“There is one property which has changed hands since this was proposed and it had a huge effect on the value to the tune of £200,000.
“There’s another one in Bank Road which will virtually be surrounded by these things and the financial damage there was valued to be £100,000.”
If Ashford Borough Council approves the plans, the solar array will consist of photovoltaic panels and battery storage.
Power would be fed into the national network via a connection at the nearby Sellindge electrical substation.
But estate agent of almost 40 years, Matthew Ryde, warned the move will make Aldington a “less attractive place to live” while “negatively impacting house prices.”
“If we are talking about creating a better world, then actually we’ve got to create a better world for people to live in and that’s not just about green energy, it’s about how people feel and the physical experience of living life and being somewhere,” the founder of Graham John Estate Agents added.
“It’s so important to be excited about going home. If you look at any of the rural areas, people move there because they want to be amongst a beautiful landscape.
“The development as I picture it, I think would have a huge impact on how people enjoy walking around the countryside. It will change people’s view of the village and the enticement of wanting to live there, and will subsequently impact house prices in a negative way.
“You’re going to change how it feels to experience that piece of the countryside. The compact village centre covers about 40 acres – you’re building a solar farm that’s about 10 times the size of the village.
“Some people will probably get to a point where they don’t want to come home and see that and will end up moving.”
Mr Bules, 74, founder of the Aldington and Mersham Support Group, says he is battling the plans due to its “inappropriate location, scale and cumulative effect”.
Speaking after the latest meeting among residents and parish council members, Mr Bules said: “People have been living with this for almost two years.
“So many people think it’s a helpless situation but we believe otherwise and feel there’s something worth fighting for here.
“My main concerns are the damage it would do to the fabric of the village.
“The environment and atmosphere would change dramatically. People would see it from their homes. Some people will literally have it at the bottom of their garden.
“It will destroy the village we live in.”
‘It will be a less desirable place to live...’
Simon Lunn lives in Aldington Frith and is one of many backing the campaign to stop Stonestreet Green Solar. He says there are several issues that need to be addressed.
“One of the principle issues is the visual impact,” he said.
“The thing is going to be built on the Aldington Ridge. It's a prominent landscape feature and will be visible for a very large area. It’ll affect everyone driving into Aldington – you’ll get a view of this monstrous development from the A20.”
He added that with the National Grid network already in nearby Sellindge, as well as an EDF development in planning, the addition of this project would see the parish covered in solar panels.
“They would also be building on a flood plain so there are concerns over flooding,” he said.
“This is a very serious issue for certain residents – it could result in flooding their houses.
“Biodiversity is another problem. If it’s ever built, it’ll be a monstrosity of construction of mud but hopefully, we won’t get to that point. From a resident's point of view, we are going to fight this when the application is finally submitted and put forward a case as to why we don’t want it.”
Mr Lunn’s wife Alison added: “It’s agricultural land around here.
“If it’s gone, it’s gone, and that would be a shame. There is a lot of wildlife here too and we don’t want to lose that.
“Residents are not being consulted properly. Each time they try and consult us again they miss something out such as the visual impact. They're being unfair in their consulting.”
If approved, the solar array would consist of photovoltaic panels and battery storage - and would cover an area close to Aldington roughly the size of around 250 football pitches. Power would be fed into the national network via a connection at the nearby Sellindge electrical substation.
Resident Sir Christopher Edwards, who backs the campaign, feels it is important a counterargument is pitched.
“I’m a very strong supporter of this campaign shouting from the rooftops, that every new house, and an awful lot of older houses, should have solar panels,” he said.
“We are aware there are some members of the community that are opposed to the scheme on the grounds of visual impact and we have made significant changes to the project design to address these concerns...”
“Virtually not a single new building has a solar panel.
“How can they not do that and yet spend all their time in erecting solar panels on farmland? It’s not sensible.
“When we have better storage for energy, the energy supply can be evened out so there isn’t a situation where we are producing energy at a time when the creator can’t use it. I think if you can do that, the situation would be different.”
His wife, Sally Edwards, added: “We’ve got to move on.
“We need solar roofs and we need to get through to the government that all new houses should have solar roofs. I feel very strongly because Otterpool is coming.”
But Evolution’s director Giles Frampton said the project will generate low-cost, renewable energy while contributing to the UK's energy security.
Since the plans were launched more than two years ago, three rounds of consultations have taken place.
He stressed the firm will take onboard all community feedback - both positive and negative.
“The project has accepted a grid offer that allows it to connect and export renewable energy once built, expected to be in 2026,” he said.
"We are aware there are some members of the community that are opposed to the scheme on the grounds of visual impact and we have made significant changes to the project design to address these concerns.
“We are not aware of any credible evidence that confirms the nearby presence of a solar farm has a significant impact on house prices.”
He added, the UK has a legally binding commitment to reach net zero by 2050 and government policy is for the UK to be powered entirely by clean electricity by 2035.
“The key challenge to meeting these targets is electricity grid capacity which is severely limited,” he said.
“Projects like Stonestreet Green Solar, that can quickly connect and contribute to the UK’s generation mix in an area that is not subject to any planning designations, will be critical to ensuring these targets are achieved."