A solar farm covering an area of over 60 football pitches in the Herefordshire countryside has been given unanimous backing.

As the Hereford Times reported in November, Conrad Energy of Oxfordshire was seeking the go-ahead to install the photovoltaic arrays and associated infrastructure across 46 hectares straddling the river Frome between Dormington and Mordiford.

The array would generate renewable power domestically for 11,000 homes and provide biodiversity benefits, the company’s application said. After 35 years it would be decommissioned and the site restored to farmland.

Given the strong feelings the proposal had generated locally, with 14 objections being submitted, it was passed to today’s (May 24) meeting of the council planning committee to decide on.

Coun Julia Cotton of Dormington and Mordiford Group Parish Council said that discussions with the company had led to increased planting to screen the panels.

Conrad’s agent George Hall said the proposal had also been scaled down in size after local consultation.


But nearby resident Paul Williams told the committee that he and other neighbours shared concerns that the proposal would convert the rural landscape into “a large metallic and glass structure of industrial proportions”.

“I am unaware of any benefits to the local community,” he said. “There will be minimal local employment, we will have no cheaper electricity or subsidised solar panels.”

Ward councillor John Hardwick welcomed the reduction in the “exceptionally high” phosphate levels in the Frome valley that the scheme would bring due to removal of livestock. But he acknowledged there was “a fine balance between for and against this application” due to its landscape impact.

Though “temporary”, the solar arrays would “last longer than me or many others in this room”, he added.

Coun Paul Andrews, in whose ward the proposed scheme also lies, said he accepted the need to cut carbon and fossil fuel use. But if national policy required new homes to have solar panels, “schemes like this wouldn’t need to come to us”, he noted.

Planning committee vice-chairman Coun Paul Rone described the proposal as “one of the most important that’s come before me, and a big decision for us to make”.

Chairman Coun Terry James said the consultation between the applicant and the two parish councils before the bid was submitted “had been an exemplar”.

In the end, the committee backed the proposal unanimously. A proposed condition put forward by Coun Jeremy Milln that the project’s impact on wild birds be monitored was also approved.