WEST Somerset residents have attacked proposals for a new solar farm just north of one of the area’s main tourist attractions.

London-based firm Elgin Energy is seeking to build a 132-acre solar farm on agricultural land to the north of Washford and Tropiquaria Zoo, just off the A39.

The company claims that the solar farm would be “clean, quiet, and visually unobtrusive”, and would be able to power 7,500 homes a year over its 30-year lifespan.

But residents of Washford and the neighbouring villages have criticised the proposal, citing the visual impact and the loss of agricultural land.

The site stretches from Washford and the northern boundary of Tropiquaria Zoo along the B3190 towards Five Bells, running east of Washford River and the West Somerset Railway.

At a public consultation held at Washford Memorial Hall on Thursday afternoon (May 10), several local residents spoke out against having a solar farm on their doorstep.

David Hosegood said: “From what I’ve seen so far the local reaction is very anti- the plans.

“The thing that concerns me is the visual impact. The lay of the land is the lay of the land, and it is extremely visible. I would like to see these plans thrown out.”

Phil Browne said: “This is not needed here. There are so many buildings and so much disused land near the Bristol Channel which could be used for solar panels.”

One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said that it was unacceptable to build on the land instead of allowing farmers to work it.

She said: “This is prime agricultural land, it should be used for growing food – not for solar panels.

“We should have solar panels on all our houses – that way energy companies wouldn’t have to come along and build solar farms.

“They should put solar panels on the roof of every new house built. The law should be changed.”

No representative from Elgin Energy was available for interview at the consultation event.

In the information leaflet which accompanied the event, the company said that the panels would be less visually intrusive than on-shore wind turbines, and that local companies would be included in the supply chain.

A spokesman said: “For the construction phase local contractors and businesses will be used as far as possible.

“For the operational phase it is envisaged that local contractors and service providers will be engaged to maintain the development.

“We will work with local community groups to provide a community benefit fund to the local area.”

If the solar farm were to go ahead, Elgin Energy estimates that it could be built within 16 weeks, with construction traffic using an existing access road off the B3190.

A full planning application for the solar farm is likely to come forward in the coming months.