Flooding fears were rife as controversial plans for a solar farm at a Northamptonshire beauty spot went on display to the public for the first time.
The land at Kingsthorpe Meadows was the subject of an auction battle in 2008 between Councillor Ifty Choudary (Con, Abington),and residents’ group NN2, which had raised £98,000 to turn the site into a nature reserve.
To their surprise, Councillor Choudary’s daughter bought the land at the auction instead.
The Conservative member has since drawn up a planning proposal with Green Switch Solutions to install a solar farm on his 28-acre site; the other 14-acre patch was handed over to the residents’ group for £36,000 in 2009.
But some people living nearby believe installing thousands of two-metre high panels there will alter the meadows’ effectiveness as a flood plain for the River Nene, forcing a greater flow of water towards the town centre in rainy seasons.
Speaking at a consultation meeting on Wednesday, Alan Hames, of the Nene flood Prevention Alliance, said: “I think this is an appalling plan. That land is there to protect Northampton.”
Assistant planner for Green Switch, John Hellawell, said measures could be put in place to mitigate the impact on the flood plain, including raising the panels up on rods to allow water to flow through.
The space between the panels, he said, could even allow the land to be used for sheep grazing.
He said: “The solar farm will provide energy at a peak output to 1,200 homes without removing prime agricultural land from usage.”
Liberal Democrat borough councillor for the Kingsthorpe area, Councillor Sally Beardsworth, said her concern about the farm would be the visual impact on 25 acres of picturesque meadow.
“People are very upset about this,” she said. “No one is against solar panels but in the right place. That has been a beautiful natural meadow for years.”
Company director Oliver Mackaness, 39, of Boughton Park, was one of the people who donated funds to NN2 to buy the land for use as a nature reserve in 2008.
He said: “It’s so galling that this could become a solar farm now.”
But Councillor Choudary said opposition members have used the solar farm as a ‘political football’ against him.
He said he was willing to have a public meeting about the plans if it helped to allay residents’ concerns.