A CONTROVERSIAL bid to cover fields with solar farms, opposed by equestrian gold medallists Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester, has been quashed by an inspector.

Developers had challenged Forest of Dean District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission to install solar panels on around 34 acres of farmland north of Stream Lane in Upleadon near Newent.

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

District councillors voted to reject the scheme after concerns were raised it would harm the sights from 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.

Among those objecting were British Olympic dressage gold medallists Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin along with Italian rider Vittoria Panizzon who use the nearby narrow country lanes for riding.

Planning inspector John Woolcock said he found the proposal would have a significant adverse effect on the landscape.

He said in his decision notice that the site lies within the Severn Vale which is an extensive landscape with a complex mix of arable and pasture farming where hedgerow trees and field trees are an important landscape feature and prominent when located on the many small hillocks that rise from the vale.

“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 spoke at the district council planning committee meeting and said he is totally against such applications “taking up good farming land”.

Speaking after the appeal he said 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.”