Giant solar farm is permitted but residents were ‘treated unfairly’

Residents opposed to the Westhampnett solar farm

Residents opposed to the Westhampnett solar farm

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A solar farm the size of Westhampnett is set to be built next to the village after planning permission was granted by county councillors on Tuesday.

Residents pleaded with the planning committee to ‘do the right thing’, and take heed of numerous objections to plans for the former landfill site, owned by the council.

But a majority vote was swayed by the benefits of renewable energy and amended plans for the 16-hectare plot, with panels more densely arranged, further away from properties.

Cllr Jeremy Hunt said insufficient time had been given to respond to revised plans, with 22 objections filed before the application was ‘rushed through’.

He said: “I don’t believe the residents of Westhampnett have been treated either fairly or with any respect during this process, that is with the exception of the members of the committee who have all given due respect and extensive consideration to the very real concerns expressed by those residents.”

Cllr John Rogers agreed the application had been dealt with ‘appallingly’.

He said: “I don’t like these words ‘detrimental’ and ‘significant’ that are poo-pooed by people.

“This is detrimental and significant for local people. I wouldn’t want to live next to this.”

But Cllr Andrew Barrett-Miles said residents had no right to a view and a 75-metre gap from the panels was far more than developments built 20 metres from his window in town.

County planning officer Jane Moseley responded that the amended design for 26,527 panels had been available from December 9.

The site will generate up to 7.44MW in clean energy.

Permission was granted with nine votes in favour and two against.

Speaking after the meeting, chairman of Westhampnett Parish Council Bill Harding said residents had been treated with ‘contempt’.

He added that the parish council had advised residents to set up an action group, but there appeared to be ‘no mechanism’ for appeal.

Final approval for the site will be a decision for the leader of West Sussex County Council later this month following the business plan report from a joint meeting of the environmental and finance select committees on Wednesday.

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