A CONTROVERSIAL bid to cover fields with a giant solar farm has been quashed by an inspector, after Olympic gold medal riders Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester joined other residents in objecting.

Developers challenged the Forest Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for solar panels on some 34 acres of farmland north of Stream Lane in Upleadon near Newent.

The land in Upleadon near Newent where developers want to create a new solar farm
The land in Upleadon near Newent where developers want to create a new solar farm (LDRS)

But now a planning inspector has dismissed the appeal by Pathfinder Clean Energy UK Dev Ltd which sought to overturn the council’s decision made last July.

District councillors rejected the scheme following local concerns that it would harm the sights from local vantage point May Hill.

The solar panels, which would have powered more than 2,600 homes, were met with strong opposition from dozens of residents and the parish council.

Olympic champion dressage stars Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin meet their fans in Newent

Opponents included British Olympic dressage medallists Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin along with Italian rider Vittoria Panizzon, who use the nearby narrow country lanes for riding.

Charlotte’s famous London 2012 and Rio 2016 champion horse Valegro - who is immortalised in a bronze statue in the centre of Newent – is among horses ridden on the local lanes from their Malswick stables.

Objecting to the plan at the time, they said large construction vehicles travelling through the lanes during the installation of the panels could unsettle the horses.

“Stream Lane and Hooks Lane are single country lanes with grass verges. Traffic on these lanes and in particular Stream Lane is very light,” Mr Hester said in his objection letter.

“There are limited passing places on both of these lanes so any increase in traffic by virtue of construction traffic will have a significant impact and is most likely to create safety issues for cyclists, horse-riders and walkers.

“From a personal point of view both Charlotte Dujardin and I very much benefit from hacking my horses out around these lanes which is vital for their fitness regime and down time in their preparation for GB Olympic team selection.”

The statue of Valegro in Newent town centre
The statue of Valegro in Newent town centre (File picture)

Planning inspector John Woolcock said in his appeal ruling the proposal would have a significant adverse effect on the landscape.

He said the site lies within the Severn Vale, an extensive landscape with a complex mix of arable and pasture farming where hedgerow trees and field trees that are an important landscape feature, and prominent on the many small hillocks.

“The appeal site is visually separated from hamlets and small villages in the wider area by distance, topography, and trees,” he said.

“I consider that the appellant understates the sensitivity of the landscape receptor in this deeply rural environment.

“The metal and glass panels, along with their regular arrangement in long rows, would be out of keeping with the character of the area.

“The colour and texture of the panels would not be typical of its agricultural context, and so the proposed development would introduce a utilitarian element into this deeply rural landscape.

“Mitigation planting would not overcome this harm. I find that the proposal would have a significant adverse effect on the landscape character of the area.”

He also said the solar farm would have a significant adverse visual impact.

“There are views into the appeal site from Stream Lane and the undulating topography limits opportunities for effective screening,” he said.

“The solar panels and ancillary infrastructure would be prominent from public vantage point.

“This harm to the character and appearance of the area weighs against the proposal in the planning balance.”

Upleadon parish councillor Eddie Wood said he was totally against such applications “taking up good farming land”.

But speaking after the appeal, he admitted he was surprised by the decision.

“It’s very good news for us,” he said.

“It was the visual impact. You can’t change that.

“That is there – they turned it down on that – it’s final.”