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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Angry reaction to giant solar park proposal for Cumbria

A massive solar park the size of 40 football pitches would be a blight on the countryside, opponents say.

Villagers have reacted with anger to a power firm’s plan to build a 72-acre complex with almost 80 rows of 8ft-high panels.

Green Switch Solutions want to build the solar park at Kirkland Green, between the A595 and A591, at Bothel.

They put their plans on show in the village hall at an exhibition attended by about 40 residents, many of whom were unhappy at the proposals.

They were worried about visual impact, particularly with wind turbines already visible in the area, the effect on house prices and the fact that the area does not get a lot of sun.

Adam Jackson, 42, of Bothel, said: “I feel very strongly against this and I feel the better option is the nuclear route.

“Something like this is ruining the countryside and I can’t believe it is an option here.

“Anybody driving into the village is going to see it. It is going to affect the village and house prices in it.”

Fellow villager Jackie Reeve, 51, said: “It seems a silly place to put it especially with it being right next to the road and the windfarm.

“We have had enough accidents and putting more things round there is going to change people’s views.

“It should be put somewhere where it gets a bit more sun because Cumbria is not renowned for its sunshine.”

The solar park would be expected to have a 25-year lifespan.

John Ray, of Bothel, was concerned about the distraction the solar park could cause especially as it was in the same area as the turbines.

“It is a very busy and dangerous road and we don’t want any more distractions for drivers,” he added.

The Westnewton Action Group has already criticised the plans, saying it would be a significant development and create a cumulative impact, when taking wind turbines in the area into account too.

A statement said: “To have 29 hectares of green agricultural land completely covered with shiny black plastic is going to create a considerable visual impact.”

Green Switch Solutions said they had not yet made any decisions and were consulting with residents first.

A screening opinion for the park was submitted to Allerdale Council in the summer and it was ruled that it must undergo an environmental impact assessment.

Liam Kelly, project manager for Greenswitch, said: “Opinions so far have ranged from indifference to being totally against the plans.

“We wanted to gauge the views of the community and we will take them into consideration as to whether the site is suitable.”

The layout had slightly changed from the original plans as they had moved the site further from the village.

Mr Kelly said that there would be considerable community benefits if a solar park was built there.

He also said he understood the frustrations of villagers with the turbines and was sympathetic but said they were a separate issue to the solar park.

The earliest a planning application would be submitted is March.

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