NO decision has been made on plans to set up 40,000 solar panels in four fields in Arborfield.

Wokingham Borough Council has declared a climate emergency and promised to ensure there is enough renewable energy to power 25,000 homes in Wokingham by 2030.

However, on December 9 the council’s planning committee decided not to grant permission for a solar farm that could generate enough renewable electricity to power 3,736 homes a year.

They voted to defer Wessex Solar Energy’s application, after several councillors said they wanted more information about the alternative sites that have been considered for the 40,000 panels.

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The company wants to run a solar farm on almost 50 acres of farmland for 40 years and surround it with a 2.5-metre-high mesh security fence.

Stephen Conway (Liberal Democrat) said: “I don’t really get any sense of how seriously alternatives were considered and what those alternatives were.

“I would very much like to know what those alternatives were and why they weren’t deemed to be suitable.”

Cllr Angus Ross (Conservative) said it was "a totally inappropriate site for it" and the "high-quality agricultural land" should continue to be used for farming.

Bracknell News:

Their comments came after almost 90 people objected to the plans, with some claiming the solar farm will spoil scenic views and “look ugly”.

Cllr Gary Cowan (Independent) said the solar farm would be a “massive eyesore that will destroy the amenity of the countryside” and “really urbanise a rural greenfield location”.

However, they were assured the company has thoroughly assessed at least five potential sites in Wokingham and found that the farmland off Swallowfield Road was the most suitable.

Mark Croucher said: “One of the key benefits of this site is the 33 kilovolt line going across it, which means there doesn’t have to be any underground cabling or any development off site to basically get the power generated onto the grid.”

He added: “In our Climate Emergency Action Plan, the ambition is for 25,000 homes to have annual renewable energy.

“That would be the equivalent of seven sites of this scale. I think it’s inevitable there are going to be sites that have some kind of impact, similar or worse than this.

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“In terms of alternative sites, I’m not convinced that’s a strong argument at the moment, because of our policy and Climate Emergency Action Plan.”

However, Simon Weeks, chairman of the planning committee, said the council’s decision to declare a climate emergency ‘does not directly impact on planning law’.

The committee ultimately voted to defer the planning application.

Wokingham’s carbon footprint is 580.9 kilotonnes (kt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 44.5 per cent of emissions come from energy use in people’s homes while 31.4 per cent come from transport, according to a recent council report.

That means Wokingham emitted more CO2 into the atmosphere in 2017 than several small countries did in the previous year, including Andorra (469ktCo2), and Belize (568ktCo2).