UK solar developer TGC Renewables claims to have won local support for a proposed solar farm in Hampshire initially strongly opposed by residents.
The company said it had changed the location for the installation, near Winchfield, after residents said they would oppose it on its original site.
TGC director Ben Cosh said an initial public consultation for a site in Bagwell Lane held last February drew “overwhelming” local opposition and a threat from residents that they would collectively challenge the project as it went through the planning process.
But Cosh said that during the same consultation residents identified an alternative site off Taplin’s Lane Farm as another potential location for the project
“After listening to the issues and concerns of the local community TGC decided that the land off Taplin’s Lane Farm identified at the Bagwell Lane public consultation would be a more fitting and appropriate site and therefore be pursed as the preferred location,” Cosh said.
“This highly consultative approach is TGC’s usual engagement process, albeit slightly different as locals suggested a better option, which also suited us. We then did the usual engagement on the current site too. It went very well.”
Public feedback quoted in TGC’s consultation report suggested the move had been successful in defusing the initial hostility of the community to the project.
“Much sounder scheme than Bagwell Lane proposal, we won’t object,” one commenter said, another, “A good proposal, thank you for listening to the objections on the Bagwell Lane site.”
Cosh said that based on this positive response TGC decided to drop its original scheme and submit proposals for the alternative site: “We didn’t make any substantial alternations to the current scheme, but we obviously dropped the previous scheme on the basis of the valid objections to the proposals.”
The new proposed project was slightly smaller than the original at 5.8MW compared to 7.5MW.
Cosh said the change of public attitude to the project demonstrated the value of consultation in overcoming local hostility to solar farms.
“The key here is that the objections were valid in terms of planning policy and there was a better alternative. Planning policy clearly states that all communities have to take on responsibility for the generation of renewable energy as we shift to embedded generation. A lot of objections doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad scheme – they have to be valid objections in terms of planning policy,” he said.
Hart District Council is expected to decide the application by the end of July, according to local media reports.