Fight to save historic farmland from 20,000 solar panel farm in Chailey

Villagers rally to the cause in Chailey
Villagers rally to the cause in Chailey

Villagers are rallying to save historic farmland from the proposed development of 20,000 solar panels.

Hadstone Energy plans to install the panels on 24 acres of ancient farmland at Tomkins Farm near Cinder Hill, Chailey.

Residents claim the site is unsuitable as it is a unique historic landscape, traffic will pass an open play area, roads are unsuitable for HGVs and food production is possible on the land.

Chailey resident Gaye Forster said: “Imagine an area the size of 12 football pitches covered with glass panels, rising up to nine feet high beside a popular public footpath.

“That is what might become of this irreplaceable piece of Sussex countryside.”

Gaye is one of more than 100 people in Chailey, Newick and Barcombe who have banded together to fight the proposal.

The group fear it may set a precedent for the destruction of other areas of outstanding natural beauty, damaging a ‘unique rural landscape that is virtually unchanged since 1600’.

“We are all for green energy, but not on green fields”, Gaye added.

“Solar is one way of providing renewable energy and reducing the nation’s carbon footprint, but it’s essential that it doesn’t add to the other ecological and environmental pressures that are already hurting the countryside.

“It would cut potential food production for at least 25 years on what has been a successful arable and dairy farm, with only limited grazing available under the solar panels.”

“The energy it would generate just goes into the National Grid.

“The developers have failed to show that they have tried to find the best site in Chailey.”

Hadstone Energy say the site has ‘low visibility’ from the road and housing, and is not an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Developers say the panels will not damage the land any more than farming, and small livestock could still graze after development.

The energy generated could power 1400 houses for 25 years which will be used locally, saving 80,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Hadstone will donate £20,000 to local charities if it gains planning permission. The developer held two public consultations. It said installing solar panels will generate one or two HGV movements a day for two or three months, which would not be a ‘perceptible difference’.

The panels would be removed after 25 years.

Residents say the site is of historic interest, much of it farmed in the 17th century.

Chailey historian Sally Varlow said: “It is ringed by small farmsteads at least 400 years old, with ancient trees, meadows and streams.

“It remains a classic example of dispersed farmsteads, typical of the Low Weald, with no new housing or industrial buildings added.”

“The developers, Hadstone Energy, claim their plan has been sized down to please us, but we believe they are guided only by the government subsidies,” Gaye added.

“What we think is best is a community scheme on a locally agreed site that Chailey people can have a real stake in.”

Join the campaign by emailing Mavie Van Den Hever at mvandenhever@yahoo.co.uk

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