A local campaign group launched in opposition of a giant solar farm scheme proposal using up prime agricultural land near Abergavenny are looking for further public support to prevent the proposal going ahead.

Green power business Great House Energy Centre Limited are proposing that eleven fields at Penpergwm between Abergavenny and Raglan, close to the award-winning Hardwick restaurant, should be used for a 103-acre green power installation.

The company claim this will power 11,180 homes, but local residents who have formed a campaign group argue that the project would be an eyesore for miles around.

HUSTLE (Help Us Stop the Looming Eyesore) is a campaign group made up of six local residents who oppose the plans are now in the process of challenging the proposal as the application goes before the Welsh Government planning inspectorate.

As part of their campaign, the group are raising their own funds to fight the proposal and are hoping for more public support through donations.

The group recently held an information open day on Sunday July 25 at Llanddewi Rhydderch village hall, which was attended by Monmouth Senedd member and Monmouthshire councillor Peter Fox and Abergavenny town mayor Cllr Tudor Thomas.

Speaking at the open day, Monmouthshire Councillor Peter Fox said: “Whilst I am not against solar farms in principle, I feel they should always be conducive with the local environment, relatively modest, discreetly placed and preferably sited on less productive land.

“Sadly, I feel this proposed site fails in all of these things. This would be a huge solar park of circa 200 acres situated in some of the most beautiful countryside in Monmouthshire.”

Speaking about the planned proposal, Abergavenny Town Mayor Tudor Thomas said: “I attended the HUSTLE consultation open day and generally support their campaign.

“There is an obvious need for renewable energy sources across Wales. but this does seem to be a big development on prime agricultural land and will be an eyesore in that area.”

The site of the proposed renewable energy farm, north of the A40 dual carriageway and Old Raglan Road, will be visible from the garden of Welsh Gastropub of the Year, The Hardwick, run by Gordon Ramsay’s best man, Stephen Terry, and sits 100m from the Grade II-listed 16th Century Great House and Parc Lettis barn.

GHECL speaking on their consultation website, GHECL said: “The project will generate enough electricity to power over 11,000 homes, and make a significant contribution to Welsh climate commitments… An estimated 18,000 tonnes of CO2 will be saved each year.”

The firm claimed the more visible areas of the site, which is beneath the existing electricity network and will not need pylons, will not have solar panels.

“The installation will result in no irreversible impacts,” they added, while its rural location means “few residential properties will experience impactful views”.

Members of HUSTLE recently visited the site where the solar farm would be situated to get a greater idea of the scale of the proposal.

As well as the impact the solar farm would have on the local landscape, the group also have concerns over the broader implications that such a proposal could have on arable land throughout Wales.

These concerns stem from the prospect of prime agricultural land being used for renewable energy further diminishing the rapidly-shrinking area of land within Wales that can be used for food production.

The group fear that such proposals could also set a precedent of more farmers selling up their land for use as solar farms, and that money generated from the solar farm will go abroad and not be distributed locally.

With public consultation on the proposal having ended on August 25, the campaign group have now hired a barrister to represent them at a pre-enquiry meeting held by Welsh Government before a final decision is made on the application.

Speaking to the Chronicle, Don Grant, Chair of HUSTLE said: “The reason the developer has chosen this site is simple. It has no statutory designation (is not an AONB or National Park), has a connection to the National Grid and a willing partner in the landowner. If you are reading this article and can see a power line from your home you could soon be looking at a Solar Generation factory.

“We will be asking Welsh Government why they seem to be relying on the commercial market to deliver renewable energy targets in spite of objections from both the local planning authority and local people. Surely they should take control of such development themselves to ensure it does not do lasting harm.”

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