Residents could own part of solar farm

Proposed solar panel farm in Berwick> The area marked in red would be the community-owned part.
Proposed solar panel farm in Berwick> The area marked in red would be the community-owned part.
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A community-owned company could own a portion of a solar panel farm proposed for Berwick, if plans are given the green light.

A 20-hectare solar panel farm is proposed for Batbrooks Farm in Berwick, and could power up to 2,300 homes.

The solar farm proposal was met with a mixed reaction from residents. Some, including the Preserve our Parish Pastures Group, oppose the plans, while others support the idea.

Susenco, the developer, offered residents the opportunity to set up a community-owned company to take ownership of a section of the farm and to manage and raise money to pay for it by selling shares to the community. Community shareholders would get a modest but healthy return on their investment and the rest of the money generated by the community-owned panels will be spent on community projects, energy saving schemes or environmental work. It is the first scheme in the UK where a developer has offered shares to local people.

In response Dr Alister Scott, from Berwick, set up community company Wick Street Community Solar Farm Company, run by local people, so the community will benefit from the farm.The community company, with Sussex-based community energy company OVESCo’s help, will raise around £3 million for the site. Dr Scott, said: “The industry is waking up to the fact that local communities want ‘in’ to the significant benefits that solar farms can bring. This is the first solar farm that Wealden District Council’s planning committee will consider. Let Wealden say to developers ‘if you want to build here, you must share the benefits locally.”

Dr Mark Hinnells, a Director of Susenco, said: “I am delighted that this scheme is not only doubling the amount of solar power installed in Wealden, Lewes and Eastbourne, but is also doing that in a very community inclusive way.” A decision date for the farm is set for Thursday October 17.