Bakers Farm solar field has ‘destroyed’ local Sidlesham business

Tony Goodman on the entrance road to his business
Tony Goodman on the entrance road to his business

‘NOTHING but destruction’ has greeted a family-run firm since construction on a solar farm started on their doorstep.

Trojan Timber Products is in uproar at the work going on at the Bakers Farm solar field site, in Sidlesham.

if it’s kept quiet there’s other businesses and residents in Chichester that are going to suffer the way we’ve suffered

Tony Goodman

Tony Goodman and his wife Sam have spoken out over the 10MW site, capable of powering around 3,686 average UK homes.

“It’s destroyed our business,” said Mrs Goodman.

“It’s just ruined us. We had a really good reputation in the area. Everybody liked coming down here because it was a nice area.”

Access to their business is gained by a rural track off the B2145.

Work on the site has been ongoing since January, with British solar farm developer Solafields the company behind the operation.

Articulated lorries have been going back and forth, along with other large machinery, churning up the road and leaving Trojan Timber isolated, according to the business.

It is reporting a worse financial position for February compared to this time a year ago.

“Customers don’t want to come down here because of the state of the road. I know the road wasn’t great before but it was driveable and safe,” said Mrs Goodman.

“They get to the top of the road and think ‘it’s a building site, they must have gone’.”

The road was so muddy Mrs Goodman slipped over last month and had to go to 
accident and emergency.

The couple run the office side of the business, which is owned by Mr Goodman’s father and brother-in-law.

Complaints have been lodged with Chichester District Council, which granted planning permission last year.

However, Mr and Mrs Goodman feel it is too little 
too late, adding they felt they ‘seriously let down’ by the council.

“I think they didn’t do enough in time,” she said. “They came down and read them the riot act and took their word for it that they were going to do what they were meant to.”

The council also put an enforcement notice on construction work, warning builders to stick to the hours of 7am-7pm on weekdays, 8am-1pm on Saturdays and no work on Sundays.

Asked if he felt anything else could be done, Mr Goodman said: “I think it’s beyond that for us. It’s the fact we know there are other sites starting up with the same people somewhere along the lines.”

“If we’re having these problems, the next site they move onto are going to get the same problems we’ve got,” his wife added.

Mr Goodman finished: “When these people started, we would’ve looked at it a bit more because we would be concerned about the business, but if it’s kept quiet there’s other businesses and residents in Chichester that are going to suffer the way we’ve suffered.”

Trojan Timber Products has been at the site since 1987, with the current owners taking over in 2008 and eight members of staff on site today. It manufactures sheds, cabins, workshops, summer houses, play houses and more.

Finished road to be ‘better’

SOLAFIELDS boss Mark Candlish said the layout of the land had been quite ‘unique’ with it hopefully improved for the future.

“It’s certainly bad down there but the farm track before was almost impassable,” he said, adding it had been like ‘being on the ocean’ going up and down in a car.

“I think the situation was particularly unique here with the way the farm had a very poor access and it had some residents and Trojan Timber Products all operating in quite a confined space,” he said

“We’ve never had a project like that before and I can’t see having one again, but once the construction work is over it will be a considerably better environment for everyone there.”

Solafields have also paid for a sign to be visible from the B2145 saying Trojan Timber Products is open as usual. Work is expected to be completed by mid-May.

Mr Candlish said when a solar project got underway, a company was created, in this case Sidlesham Renewables. However, he said he felt most of Trojan Timber Product’s arguments lay with construction company Bester Generación, which is working on the site.

“We actually don’t have any involvement in the project at the moment,” he said.

“Having created the project we’ve always tried to keep good links with the landowner and neighbours and tenants on the farms and done all we can to help Tony out.”

He added: “We’ve put our hand in our pockets just as a gesture of goodwill, just to smooth things out.

“At the end of it he ends up with a much quieter farm and a new access track. It won’t be bad, it was the nature of the construction.”

He said Solafields was also working with a number of organisations and groups in the area to distribute £50,000 from a community benefit fund.

A statement from the district council said: “We have been working with both the developers of the solar farm and local businesses to help resolve the issues raised and we have been closely monitoring the situation.

“We have been regularly visiting the site, including a visit this week where we assessed the impact on the road and ditches. We have been told by the contractors that the concerns are being dealt with and we will be keeping a close eye on the situation to make sure that this happens.”