A huge solar farm stretching across 16 agricultural fields north of Bristol has been granted planning permission despite fears about flooding and road safety.
South Gloucestershire councillors voted unanimously to approve the development between Wickwar and Bagstone, which will power about 15,000 homes with renewable energy and operate for 40 years before being returned to farmland.
Objectors, who included three parish councils and 35 residents, told the development management committee that access to the 68-hectare (167-acre) site for construction traffic was on a dangerous bend with poor visibility on the B4058 and that Ladden Brook regularly flooded.
Resident Ed Dixon told the meeting on Thursday, November 25: “This scheme is massive in scale and equivalent to nearly 2,000 houses.”
He said the impact on the landscape would make the experience for people who used rights of way across the fields “much poorer and potentially hazardous”, while horse riders also objected because of concerns about how the bridleway would be affected.
Chipping Sodbury & Cotswold Edge ward Lib Dem Cllr Adrian Rush told members: “You have to look at it and think this is a great lump of land being taken up by a solar farm.”
He said flooding was an issue that had been passed over and that he did not believe Environment Agency advice that it would not be a problem.
But the application from Rag Lane Solar for land at Newlands Farm, West End, received 13 letters of support and planning agent Nick Beddoe told members it would offset 21,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.
Mr Beddoe said there would be extensive planting of wildflowers and 1.7km of hedgerows, as well as new habitats for wildlife.
He said sheep could continue to graze and all public rights of way would remain open and be improved.
“The proposals are fully compliant with national and local planning policy and would make a remarkable contribution to tackling climate change,” Mr Bleddoe added.
South Gloucestershire Council development manager Marie Bath said: “In terms of flooding, officers raise no objection to this scheme on the basis that swales that will be introduced will reduce overall runoff, so it will improve the flooding situation.”
She said there were no objections from landscape, planning, drainage, public rights of way, conservation or ecology officers.
A highways officer said the visibility of the junction was adequate for the speed of traffic and that a construction management plan for the 26 weeks it would take to build would ensure lorries would not travel through villages or cover nearby roads in mud.
Cllr Ernie Brown said: “Solar panels are the way to go. It’s not something new, it’s something we need.”
The site is bounded to the west by the B4058 Bristol/Bagstone Road and to the east by Rag Lane, while Cowship Lane is further north.
Get the best stories about the things you love most curated by us and delivered to your inbox every day. Choose what you love