South West solar farm coverage up by 1,000%

Place Barton Farm
Image caption The site at Place Barton Farm covers about 26 acres in the South Hams of Devon

The total area covered by solar farms in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset has increased by about 1,000% in the last five years, it has emerged.

Industry figures showed that in 2009 solar farms covered 24 acres and last year they covered 2,420 acres.

Opponents say solar farms will drive tourists away from the area, which relies on its natural beauty for tourism.

Industry body Regen SW said there was no evidence they affected tourism.

'Smothered in glass'

One of the latest applications to South Hams District Council in Devon is for a solar farm of about 26 acres, surrounded by a 2m (7ft) high fence and monitored by security cameras, at Place Barton Farm at Moreleigh, near Totnes.

Garden designer Alice Blount, an opponent of the plans, said: "We already have one at Diptford which is just under three miles away from here. There is another at Blackawton and another two have just been given planning permission nearby.

"It seems as if the whole of this area is going to be smothered in glass panels and we really don't want that."

Image caption The site would be surrounded by a security fence

But Merlyn Hyman of Regen SW said the overall landmass covered by solar farms was "still very small" and less than 0.057% of the counties' total landmass.

"I do think it is important that solar farms are developed in the right place," he said.

"Tourism is an important source of revenue for the South West.

"But there isn't any evidence that renewables have had any impact on tourism.

"In Cornwall, the growth of tourism has gone very much hand in hand with the growth in renewables and particularly wind turbines."

British Solar Renewables, which is behind the Place Barton scheme, said it was "committed to striking the right balance between generating clean energy, supporting both agriculture and the natural environment".

It said the solar farm was "well screened" and, if granted planning permission, it would generate enough renewable energy to power about 1,250 homes.

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