More than 20 farm fields near villages in East Devon are earmarked for a new solar farm to power 12,000 homes over the next 40 years

Fields in East Devon the equivalent size of 143 football pitches are to be turned over to a solar farm, powering 12,000 homes over the next 40 years.

A huge new solar farm will be built on more than 20 fields in East Devon, writes local democracy reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

The district council’s planning committee unanimously approved the application for land east of Rutton Farm, in Rull Lane, between Talaton and Whimple, at a meeting on Tuesday [June 13].

East DEvon

Planning documents show the size of the new solar farm.
Image: EDDC.

At around 58 hectares in size, the solar farm will take up the space of around 100 football pitches during its 40-year lifespan for which planning permission has been granted to Aura Power Developments Limited, although much of the land can still be used for grazing purposes.

It will reportedly produce enough energy to power 12,000 homes.

Recommending approval, despite the loss of some good quality land for agriculture, planning officers decided it complied with East Devon’s policies, including “environmental benefits” from renewable energy production and biodiversity net gain.

However, a number of objections were raised, most notably concerning the number of HGV lorry trips that would be needed to transport the panels onto site along the narrow Talaton to Whimple road.

Local resident Nigel Richards said solar was a “way forward” but warned: “A thousand households will be impacted by up to 150 HGVs every week, each way, for four months … that’s 300 HGV movements weekly along a totally unsuitable road.”

He added: “There are better [solar]schemes with less extremely dangerous traffic and congestion baggage. Keep your constituents safe, please.”

A planning officer later confirmed Devon County Council’s highways department had raised no objections to the access arrangements.

Objections were also raised about the loss of “quality agricultural land,” the solar farm’s scale and impact on the countryside, along with a claimed “lack of demostrable benefit.”

But speaking in favour, Geoffrey Whitehouse, a retired energy engineer, warned Councillors about failing to act on the climate emergency, concluding: “The application contributes to reducing energy costs and is an efficient use of land for energy generation and needs immediate action.”

Keith Hoskin, who owns Rutton Farm, said the land retains “so much water” that it meant only sheep can be kept there in the winter, while in summer the ground “dries out so hard” to allow arable production in only a small area.

He told councillors that grass could still be grown under and around solar panels, while sheep “can and do” graze around and under them, while offering shelter for them.

Mr Hoskin added: “Clean, green, renewable electricity for 12,000 houses for the next 40 years must make sense.”

The committee agreed, unanimously approving subject to a number of conditions.

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