Campaigners hold public protest near Neston

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Charles Todd, front, and campaigners against a  proposed solar farm on land off Wadswick Lane near Neston Charles Todd, front, and campaigners against a proposed solar farm on land off Wadswick Lane near Neston

Plans for a 14-hectare solar farm on the outskirts of Neston have been branded “an attack on the way of life of rural people”, by local protestors.

Opposition to the planned farm is growing, with campaigners holding a public protest at the site on Wadswick Lane on Saturday.

Several applications have been made across the county for similar installations, with a farm already approved in nearby Broughton Gifford, and plans for the county’s largest site currently being considered to the east of Melksham.

Neighbour Charles Todd has led a campaign against the plan, and organised Saturday’s protest, which was attended by around 25 local people.

The plans have already been rejected by Box Parish Council, but were approved by Corsham Town Council’s planning committee, and will now be considered by Wiltshire Council, with the planning officer’s report due by December 20.

Mr Todd said: “We have been in touch with Corsham Town Council to see if they can discuss it again.

“Because the Neston boundary of the site is between Box and Corsham they were, as a courtesy, asked to give comment, without knowing the Corsham Civic Society had written in objection, and they decided they would support the application.”

Wiltshire councillor for Corsham Without and Box Hill Dick Tonge has promised to call in the application if it is approved by Wiltshire Council.

Mr Todd said: “We are sending out information packs to the councillors on the planning committee, which will give them all the information they need.

“This is vandalising of the countryside by opportunists. It should be prevented by the local planning authority.

“It’s a historical landscape, it has listed buildings close by, with Neston Park, and it’s very close to the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Beauty, so it’s a very sensitive natural area.

“It will mean a loss of amenities for the local people who use it as a walking, cycling and riding route.

“It’s just another attack upon the countryside and way of life of rural people that really has to be faced up to.”

Comments (10)

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11:59am Tue 10 Dec 13

J Adam says...

As a resident of Neston and an opponent of this development I would like to add this point of view.

The world has to tackle increasing food shortages, we as an island have limited farm land and it seems ironic that we are replacing a sustainable green food supply with a green energy source. This is itself is not a long term sustainable solution. Brown field sites or poor quality land should be the only area for such developments.

We hear about energy cost inflation, what we forget is that there is also food cost inflation. Less land, more demand, greater costs, this conversion of agricultural land is short sighted. We should be planning to tackle both issues for the long term benefit of this island.

Of course this will affect the local community and deprive them of a lane that is used daily by joggers, walkers, cyclists and riders. The NHS trust has already stated that the access to green space is beneficial to the health of the nation.

Let me end with this note, this is a dash for cash while the subsidies are in place. This is a cynical manipulation of the green policy to benefit a few heavily subsidised farmers. There is a place for solar farms or as they are laughably called parks; that place is on brown field sites and lets not ignore our other more important sustainable energy source, agricultural land without which we will have nothing to eat.

FYI below are some of the councils policies that seem to be conveniently overlooked.

Wiltshire council's sustainability policy states

iv) Demonstrates the prudent use of natural resources and incorporates, where
relevant, recycling, renewable energy and energy conservation measures.
5.1 Sustainability is about making real change on the ground: i.e. change that promotes development that minimises the damage to the environment whilst maximising energy efficiency, recycling and the use of renewable resources. It does not mean no development but it does mean development that is appropriate and sensitive to its surroundings. Development should seek to incorporate all the sustainable principles set out in the policy.

This is not the case should the plan be approved, this not prudent use or appropriate and sensitive.

In their policy on farm diversification they state. http://www.wiltshire
.gov.uk/north_wiltsh
ire_local_plan_2011_
-_business_developme
nt.pdf

BD7 FARM DIVERSIFICATION
10.17 Diversification can include a wide range of enterprises of an appropriate scale, including non-food crops, woodland planting, recreation and leisure uses, the management of land to provide environmental benefits, farm shops, craft workshops and small-scale tourist attractions, contracting, equestrian businesses, woodland management, pick your own , nature trails, holiday accommodation and light industrial use. Such activities often help to sustain agricultural, forestry or horticultural holdings as viable units, and hence they
can reduce the likelihood of farm fragmentation. However, PPS7 (Planning Policy Statement 7 Sustainable Development in Rural Areas) demonstrates that the appeal of the countryside is central to its economic prosperity and that development should therefore be of an appropriate scale and nature, so that they do not have an adverse impact upon the character, appearance or quality of the surrounding countryside.

I can not see how this is development is on an appropriate scale.

Corsham Council set up the Community plan and part of this states

http://www.wiltshire
.gov.uk/corsham-area
-plan-nov12.pdf
Other Community Aspirations
• Protect the rural character of the
community area
• Maintain the green spaces between
villages
• Promote the diversity of the local
landscape to attract visitors
• Help young people to engage with
environmental issues
• Protect local wildlife and biodiversity

Other Community Aspirations
• Encourage walking, cycling and car sharing
• Improved alleyways, pavements and footpaths

Clearly this is no longer important.

In another survey by the council this was the finding

Respondents to the postal survey were asked in their own words to say what was the main thing that they valued most when thinking of the whole area. Altogether some 1,363 written comments were received.
A sample analysis showed that 86% of respondents said the thing they valued most was the countryside, its beauty, unspoilt nature and eases of access. A further 19% valued peace and quiet most.

I also discovered this on their sites, yet again ignored at this stage

Public access to green space
The quality of our green spaces and how easily we can access the natural environment are central to our quality of life, our society and our economy in Wiltshire and Swindon. In a 2011 survey, Wiltshire residents were asked
which things are the most important in making somewhere a good place to live; 45% chose ‘access to nature’, second only to ‘health services’
(56%). ‘Clean streets’ and ‘parks, green spaces and countryside’ both gained 42%. When asked why the natural environment is important to them, respondents chose: ‘for the wildlife’ (78%); ‘for the large open spaces’ (73%); ‘for passive recreation’ (70%); ‘for active recreation’ (56%);
‘for inspiration’ (34%); ‘for sports’ (22%).
As a resident of Neston and an opponent of this development I would like to add this point of view. The world has to tackle increasing food shortages, we as an island have limited farm land and it seems ironic that we are replacing a sustainable green food supply with a green energy source. This is itself is not a long term sustainable solution. Brown field sites or poor quality land should be the only area for such developments. We hear about energy cost inflation, what we forget is that there is also food cost inflation. Less land, more demand, greater costs, this conversion of agricultural land is short sighted. We should be planning to tackle both issues for the long term benefit of this island. Of course this will affect the local community and deprive them of a lane that is used daily by joggers, walkers, cyclists and riders. The NHS trust has already stated that the access to green space is beneficial to the health of the nation. Let me end with this note, this is a dash for cash while the subsidies are in place. This is a cynical manipulation of the green policy to benefit a few heavily subsidised farmers. There is a place for solar farms or as they are laughably called parks; that place is on brown field sites and lets not ignore our other more important sustainable energy source, agricultural land without which we will have nothing to eat. FYI below are some of the councils policies that seem to be conveniently overlooked. Wiltshire council's sustainability policy states iv) Demonstrates the prudent use of natural resources and incorporates, where relevant, recycling, renewable energy and energy conservation measures. 5.1 Sustainability is about making real change on the ground: i.e. change that promotes development that minimises the damage to the environment whilst maximising energy efficiency, recycling and the use of renewable resources. It does not mean no development but it does mean development that is appropriate and sensitive to its surroundings. Development should seek to incorporate all the sustainable principles set out in the policy. This is not the case should the plan be approved, this not prudent use or appropriate and sensitive. In their policy on farm diversification they state. http://www.wiltshire .gov.uk/north_wiltsh ire_local_plan_2011_ -_business_developme nt.pdf BD7 FARM DIVERSIFICATION 10.17 Diversification can include a wide range of enterprises of an appropriate scale, including non-food crops, woodland planting, recreation and leisure uses, the management of land to provide environmental benefits, farm shops, craft workshops and small-scale tourist attractions, contracting, equestrian businesses, woodland management, pick your own , nature trails, holiday accommodation and light industrial use. Such activities often help to sustain agricultural, forestry or horticultural holdings as viable units, and hence they can reduce the likelihood of farm fragmentation. However, PPS7 (Planning Policy Statement 7 Sustainable Development in Rural Areas) demonstrates that the appeal of the countryside is central to its economic prosperity and that development should therefore be of an appropriate scale and nature, so that they do not have an adverse impact upon the character, appearance or quality of the surrounding countryside. I can not see how this is development is on an appropriate scale. Corsham Council set up the Community plan and part of this states http://www.wiltshire .gov.uk/corsham-area -plan-nov12.pdf Other Community Aspirations • Protect the rural character of the community area • Maintain the green spaces between villages • Promote the diversity of the local landscape to attract visitors • Help young people to engage with environmental issues • Protect local wildlife and biodiversity Other Community Aspirations • Encourage walking, cycling and car sharing • Improved alleyways, pavements and footpaths Clearly this is no longer important. In another survey by the council this was the finding Respondents to the postal survey were asked in their own words to say what was the main thing that they valued most when thinking of the whole area. Altogether some 1,363 written comments were received. A sample analysis showed that 86% of respondents said the thing they valued most was the countryside, its beauty, unspoilt nature and eases of access. A further 19% valued peace and quiet most. I also discovered this on their sites, yet again ignored at this stage Public access to green space The quality of our green spaces and how easily we can access the natural environment are central to our quality of life, our society and our economy in Wiltshire and Swindon. In a 2011 survey, Wiltshire residents were asked which things are the most important in making somewhere a good place to live; 45% chose ‘access to nature’, second only to ‘health services’ (56%). ‘Clean streets’ and ‘parks, green spaces and countryside’ both gained 42%. When asked why the natural environment is important to them, respondents chose: ‘for the wildlife’ (78%); ‘for the large open spaces’ (73%); ‘for passive recreation’ (70%); ‘for active recreation’ (56%); ‘for inspiration’ (34%); ‘for sports’ (22%). J Adam

3:28pm Tue 10 Dec 13

J Adam says...

We have just started our facebook page Neston Solar Protest in the hope this will raise awareness.
We have just started our facebook page Neston Solar Protest in the hope this will raise awareness. J Adam

8:02pm Tue 10 Dec 13

xyz123 says...

It's alright bringing in green energy but not in our back garden - hypocrites, the lot of em
It's alright bringing in green energy but not in our back garden - hypocrites, the lot of em xyz123

9:45am Wed 11 Dec 13

sir roy.orbit of chippenham says...

I'm beginning to hate the word Green. I blame Duncan Hames and all the other lefty limps for that. I am now in the process of spraying my Christmas tree blue as I won't have anything green in the house if I can help it. I used to like a granny smith's apple now and then but no longer. Only Red Delicious for me from now on.
I shall be firing up my barbecue at 12 noon to cook lunch and will be using about 2 kilo's of 85% carbon lumpwood charcoal to do it. My protest will go on for as long as the words green and sustainable are being used so frequently in the media.
I'm beginning to hate the word Green. I blame Duncan Hames and all the other lefty limps for that. I am now in the process of spraying my Christmas tree blue as I won't have anything green in the house if I can help it. I used to like a granny smith's apple now and then but no longer. Only Red Delicious for me from now on. I shall be firing up my barbecue at 12 noon to cook lunch and will be using about 2 kilo's of 85% carbon lumpwood charcoal to do it. My protest will go on for as long as the words green and sustainable are being used so frequently in the media. sir roy.orbit of chippenham

3:45pm Wed 11 Dec 13

New 2 Trow says...

"Saturday’s protest, which was attended by around 25 local people." Wow, the strength of local opinion has spoken!
"Saturday’s protest, which was attended by around 25 local people." Wow, the strength of local opinion has spoken! New 2 Trow

9:10pm Wed 11 Dec 13

martynf65 says...

I cannot help but think these people will also be complaining when the power goes out nationally from lack of generation. Solar is clean and green. We HAVE to do it.

People HAVE TO STOP complaining and start being pro active about the problems we face. Brownfield sites can grow food using aquaponics and hydroponics (driven by solar!!)

STOP COMPLAINING and be positive, be the solution not tole old school guard of whiners and complainers, and YES, I would welcome an solar installation near where I live as it is the right thing to do right now.
I cannot help but think these people will also be complaining when the power goes out nationally from lack of generation. Solar is clean and green. We HAVE to do it. People HAVE TO STOP complaining and start being pro active about the problems we face. Brownfield sites can grow food using aquaponics and hydroponics (driven by solar!!) STOP COMPLAINING and be positive, be the solution not tole old school guard of whiners and complainers, and YES, I would welcome an solar installation near where I live as it is the right thing to do right now. martynf65

9:15am Thu 12 Dec 13

J Adam says...

Yes we are a small community, so it all looks rather pathetic. Yes you can argue the line "not in my back garden" however read my comment above and you will see the bigger picture. Many already feel its a lost cause as the council passed approval for the development but some like myself realised that the lack of publicity / knowledge prior to the application is the main reason little was done before it was too late. Prior to the councils meeting to approve the application they received only one letter of objection which in itself highlights how this slipped so quietly under the radar. The landowner has brought in Pegasus that specialises in smoothing such matters over and submits all the documents to support his case. If as they claim we had full knowledge in advance you would think that there would have been at least the usual handful of objections saying not in my backyard. But no there was just one letter, I find that strange. I also ask why the council felt there would not be a few more nut jobs not complaining as would be the norm.

My point is that with an increasing population and the knowledge we are already importing food this strategy of using good quality land is short sighted and morally questionable. The farmers are paid subsidies and part of the subsidy acknowledges they are guardians of the countryside yet they are now trying to profit by converting their land into solar farms. Why is that, simply put it means yet more subsidies and more money.

The lane that the solar park will run along is narrow, with the erection of the proposed hedge to hide the solar panels it will mean it will become extremely dangerous for all users as there will be many blind spots. So all those that use this lane to cycle, jog, walk and take their children along will no longer be able to.

The area in question is 400 m from a green belt and 600 m from and area of natural beauty. It is in on elevated position with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It is our obligation as a small community to try and preserve this landscape for future generations. We have brown field sites and poor quality land that should be the first place to build such solar "parks", why at the moment is this rarely happening simply put its not profitable. The developers are not building these out of some green crusade they are doing this to make as much money as possible.

For the long term we need to consider two vital issues for the well being of this island. How can we feed the nation and create a supply of green energy, I argue that one should not be to the detriment of the other. Both need to be sustainable and work in harmony. Councils are quick to pass approval under pressure to meet quotas without looking at the impact this will have on the long term. This is big business riding rough shod over local communities.

Anyway I have started a facebook page, feel free to read and comment on it. I welcome both sides of the story those for and against. I believe this issue is something we as a nation need to look at more closely before we wake up and discover all we have is solar power in our fields and no food on our tables.

https://www.facebook
.com/pages/Neston-So
lar-Farm-Protest-Pag
e/561098377301108?re
f=tn_tnmn
Yes we are a small community, so it all looks rather pathetic. Yes you can argue the line "not in my back garden" however read my comment above and you will see the bigger picture. Many already feel its a lost cause as the council passed approval for the development but some like myself realised that the lack of publicity / knowledge prior to the application is the main reason little was done before it was too late. Prior to the councils meeting to approve the application they received only one letter of objection which in itself highlights how this slipped so quietly under the radar. The landowner has brought in Pegasus that specialises in smoothing such matters over and submits all the documents to support his case. If as they claim we had full knowledge in advance you would think that there would have been at least the usual handful of objections saying not in my backyard. But no there was just one letter, I find that strange. I also ask why the council felt there would not be a few more nut jobs not complaining as would be the norm. My point is that with an increasing population and the knowledge we are already importing food this strategy of using good quality land is short sighted and morally questionable. The farmers are paid subsidies and part of the subsidy acknowledges they are guardians of the countryside yet they are now trying to profit by converting their land into solar farms. Why is that, simply put it means yet more subsidies and more money. The lane that the solar park will run along is narrow, with the erection of the proposed hedge to hide the solar panels it will mean it will become extremely dangerous for all users as there will be many blind spots. So all those that use this lane to cycle, jog, walk and take their children along will no longer be able to. The area in question is 400 m from a green belt and 600 m from and area of natural beauty. It is in on elevated position with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It is our obligation as a small community to try and preserve this landscape for future generations. We have brown field sites and poor quality land that should be the first place to build such solar "parks", why at the moment is this rarely happening simply put its not profitable. The developers are not building these out of some green crusade they are doing this to make as much money as possible. For the long term we need to consider two vital issues for the well being of this island. How can we feed the nation and create a supply of green energy, I argue that one should not be to the detriment of the other. Both need to be sustainable and work in harmony. Councils are quick to pass approval under pressure to meet quotas without looking at the impact this will have on the long term. This is big business riding rough shod over local communities. Anyway I have started a facebook page, feel free to read and comment on it. I welcome both sides of the story those for and against. I believe this issue is something we as a nation need to look at more closely before we wake up and discover all we have is solar power in our fields and no food on our tables. https://www.facebook .com/pages/Neston-So lar-Farm-Protest-Pag e/561098377301108?re f=tn_tnmn J Adam

12:34pm Thu 12 Dec 13

J Adam says...

I question Martyn's logic. He is proposing to convert good arable land and withdraw it from the food chain supply. Then he proposes to replace lost food production by building aquaponics on brown field sites. Which of course will require a structure and leave a carbon foot print which we are trying to reduce. And finally to power the aquaponics we use the installed solar power energy which is now on the non productive agricultural land. Really?

As I dig deeper into this strange illogical world of ours I came across the EU site on the Common Agricultural Policy through which farmers are paid subsidies

This is what their EU site says on the matter, note the sections on food supply and protecting the environment and communities. So now farmers get a double dip so to speak. We pay them to look after our land and then pay them to destroy our food supply. Makes sense to me !

What is the CAP?

The common agricultural policy allows European farmers to meet the needs of 500 million Europeans. Its main objectives are to ensure a fair standard of living for farmers and to provide a stable and safe food supply at affordable prices for consumers.

The CAP has changed a lot since it started in 1962, and continues to change today. The latest proposals, for the CAP after 2012, have 3 priorities:
•viable food production
•sustainable management of natural resources
•balanced development of rural areas throughout the EU.

Who runs the CAP?

The European Commission collaborates with the full range of stakeholders (mainly through its many advisory groups) in preparing its proposals. On lawmaking, the Commission's proposals are decided on by the Council of agriculture ministers of the 27 EU countries, together with the European Parliament.

The day-to-day running of the CAP is the responsibility of the member countries. The EU's Court of Auditors plays a big role in supervising the expenditure.

How is the budget spent?

The CAP's budget is spent in 3 different ways:
•Income support for farmers – who receive direct payments, provided they live up to strict standards for food safety, environmental protection and animal health and welfare. These payments are fully financed by the EU, and account for 70% of the CAP budget.
•Rural development – measures to help farmers modernise their farms and become more competitive while protecting the environment, and to keep rural communities thriving. These payments are part financed by the member countries, and account for some 20% of the CAP's budget.
•Market support – for example when bad weather destabilises markets. These payments account for less than 10% of the CAP budget.

These three areas are closely interrelated and must be managed coherently. For example, direct payments both provide farmers with a steady income and reward them for providing environmental services in the public interest. Similarly, rural development measures both encourage additional public services and help modernise farms.
I question Martyn's logic. He is proposing to convert good arable land and withdraw it from the food chain supply. Then he proposes to replace lost food production by building aquaponics on brown field sites. Which of course will require a structure and leave a carbon foot print which we are trying to reduce. And finally to power the aquaponics we use the installed solar power energy which is now on the non productive agricultural land. Really? As I dig deeper into this strange illogical world of ours I came across the EU site on the Common Agricultural Policy through which farmers are paid subsidies This is what their EU site says on the matter, note the sections on food supply and protecting the environment and communities. So now farmers get a double dip so to speak. We pay them to look after our land and then pay them to destroy our food supply. Makes sense to me ! What is the CAP? The common agricultural policy allows European farmers to meet the needs of 500 million Europeans. Its main objectives are to ensure a fair standard of living for farmers and to provide a stable and safe food supply at affordable prices for consumers. The CAP has changed a lot since it started in 1962, and continues to change today. The latest proposals, for the CAP after 2012, have 3 priorities: •viable food production •sustainable management of natural resources •balanced development of rural areas throughout the EU. Who runs the CAP? The European Commission collaborates with the full range of stakeholders (mainly through its many advisory groups) in preparing its proposals. On lawmaking, the Commission's proposals are decided on by the Council of agriculture ministers of the 27 EU countries, together with the European Parliament. The day-to-day running of the CAP is the responsibility of the member countries. The EU's Court of Auditors plays a big role in supervising the expenditure. How is the budget spent? The CAP's budget is spent in 3 different ways: •Income support for farmers – who receive direct payments, provided they live up to strict standards for food safety, environmental protection and animal health and welfare. These payments are fully financed by the EU, and account for 70% of the CAP budget. •Rural development – measures to help farmers modernise their farms and become more competitive while protecting the environment, and to keep rural communities thriving. These payments are part financed by the member countries, and account for some 20% of the CAP's budget. •Market support – for example when bad weather destabilises markets. These payments account for less than 10% of the CAP budget. These three areas are closely interrelated and must be managed coherently. For example, direct payments both provide farmers with a steady income and reward them for providing environmental services in the public interest. Similarly, rural development measures both encourage additional public services and help modernise farms. J Adam

1:46pm Mon 16 Dec 13

cris says...

i'm all for it it these things have to go in someones back yard. i would be bothered if the used some of the plain which is near where i live.

least they cant build houses on it
i'm all for it it these things have to go in someones back yard. i would be bothered if the used some of the plain which is near where i live. least they cant build houses on it cris

1:59pm Wed 18 Dec 13

J Adam says...

We only produce 60% of the food needed to feed us. So seems pretty short sighted to take out more crop land to make way for solar panel farms.

Given that a lot of the proposed solar parks are planned for farmland we can look at importing more food. Importing food means more energy is required and leaves a nice fat carbon foot print. As we have less land to produce food so the prices will rise. By the way did I mention the population is ageing seems 2 in 3 will live to a 100 - if we can feed them that is. So please think this through logically, all the way through. The solar developers and farmers are only considered with the green cash crop not you or I.

To close yes we need green fuels but we also need food. You cant sit your kids down and sprinkle crushed solar panels in their bowls. and expect them to thank you.
We only produce 60% of the food needed to feed us. So seems pretty short sighted to take out more crop land to make way for solar panel farms. Given that a lot of the proposed solar parks are planned for farmland we can look at importing more food. Importing food means more energy is required and leaves a nice fat carbon foot print. As we have less land to produce food so the prices will rise. By the way did I mention the population is ageing seems 2 in 3 will live to a 100 - if we can feed them that is. So please think this through logically, all the way through. The solar developers and farmers are only considered with the green cash crop not you or I. To close yes we need green fuels but we also need food. You cant sit your kids down and sprinkle crushed solar panels in their bowls. and expect them to thank you. J Adam

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