Concerns over solar farm

A SOLAR farm which could power 1,700 homes could be built on a South Downs field on the edge of Worthing.

Energy firm BNRG Renewables is consulting on the potential for the farm, which could be located on a 30-acre plot between Lyons Way and Lambleys Lane.

Letters have been sent to residents to gauge feelings, with a planning application likely to be submitted if environmental surveys are positive.

John Hughes, of Worthing Downlanders, said: “The remarkable fall in the cost of generating electricity using solar energy is to be welcomed, however a large-scale solar development occupying acres of downland is not.

“Before any greenfield land is taken, the vast acreage of commercial roof space, together with brownfield land that is unsuitable for housing should be used instead.

“Furthermore, we would like to see planners encourage developers to include solar energy in all new buildings’.

Davin Wakeford, 45, of Lambleys Lane, who received one of the letters, said he was not opposed to solar farms but was concerned about its location on the downs, with brownfield sites preferred.

He said: “I’m between a rock and a hard place. I’m not really against solar farms but I’m concerned that if we say yes to this it might leave the door open for other people.

“I’d rather have a solar farm than a nuclear power station there. Surely they can do it on brownfield sites rather than greenfield on the downs.”

The site, just north of the Downlands Business Park, has been highlighted as an ‘excellent solar resource’, with the potential of housing enough panels to produce five megawatts of power.

As the field is situated within the boundary of the South Downs, a planning application would likely be handled by the South Downs National Park Authority.

The letter from BNRG reads: “The single-field site has been selected for investigation because it is an excellent solar resource and, we believe, offers an opportunity to generate a substantial amount of renewable electricity without a significant visual impact, as well as an opportunity to improve habitat diversity in the immediate area.

A spokesman for Worthing Borough Council confirmed it had been contacted by BNRG.

He said: “At this stage the company is seeking some preliminary advice about whether such a development would be acceptable in planning terms and if an application was submitted whether it would require the submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment.

“As the site lies within the national park any planning application is likely to be considered by the park as the relevant planning authority.”