Published: 05:00, 06 October 2021
| Updated: 16:19, 06 October 2021
Villagers are fighting plans to build one of the UK’s largest solar farms on the outskirts of Canterbury.
National firm Enso Energy is readying a bid to build the facility – which would be the size of 125 football pitches – on arable farmland between Hoath and Chislet.
At 250 acres it would match the size of Britain’s biggest solar park in Flintshire, Wales.
The proposal has already attracted staunch opposition from locals, who believe it will scar the rolling countryside and be erected too close to back gardens in Barn Close.
Campaigner Imogen Morizet told KentOnline: “The scale of it is shocking – it’ll be a third of the footprint of the city of Canterbury.
“There is a very powerful feeling locally that our landscape is being transformed into an industrial renewable energy plant.
“The public rights of way will be respected, but the paths will have high fencing on either side. The views will be completely destroyed.
“The panels shown on the plans will be near people’s gardens. It’ll be claustrophobic as the proposed hedges put up in between will be up to three metres high.”
Ms Morizet points to advice published by the Local Government Association last year recommending that panels should be situated at least 300 metres to the nearest home.
Concern also surrounds the route construction vehicles will take to enter the development, with many thinking they could end up “nose to nose” with HGVs along single-track roads.
“There could be lots of dangerous driving situations,” Ms Morizet added.
“You have schools here and parents could be going nose to nose with these big vehicles. The whole thing is not very well considered at all.”
Ms Morizet thinks the farm - located to the south of Marley Lane - will even be visible from the A28 Island Road between Hersden and Upstreet.
Meanwhile, a proposed 800-home estate north of Hersden could further transform the countryside.
Ward councillor Rachel Carnac says the energy-making facility would “dwarf” Hoath, and is urging Enso to erect the panels elsewhere.
“It’s totally inappropriate – it’s enormous,” the Conservative explained.
“There’s also the issue of noise. The battery storage facility on the site will be noisy – so it’s not great living next to that.
“If you’re putting solar panels in, why don’t you put them in along the Thanet Way? We should be looking at other sites.”
"There is a very powerful feeling locally that our landscape is being transformed into an industrial renewable energy plant..."
Should it be given the green light, the multi-million-pound project will become the joint biggest facility of its kind in the UK, overtaking Owl’s Hatch Solar Park in Herne Bay, which is currently third.
But it will be dwarfed by the planned Cleve Hill solar farm between Whitstable and Faversham, which is yet to be built but will cover a staggering 900 acres.
Papers state it will generate 49.9 megawatts, which is thought to be enough to power 10,000 homes.
A spokesman for Enso does not expect there to be any adverse noise impact, but stresses noise and traffic assessments will be completed as part of the planning application process.
He also says the firm is “carefully considering any potential visual impact of the solar farm and anticipates this will be reduced through consultations, effective screening and biodiversity enhancements”.
Enso director Ian Harding added: “Our proposals are in line with Canterbury City Council’s declarations of a climate emergency, as well as the local and national climate change targets enshrined in law.”