A “major” solar farm which would have been the size of 14 football fields and consisted of 12,000 solar panels, and two sub-stations has been “unanimously refused”.

The 9.85ha scheme at Thornlands Farm, Fletchwood Road, and Netley Marsh, reportedly went against national policy, primary legislation and the New Forest National Park Local Plan.

The National Park Authority’s view of the solar farms is that it would have been a “major development” and that the need for renewable energy “does not override” environmental protections.

According to New Forest National Park, the scheme did not comply with National Park planning policies which support small schemes to provide renewable energy for households and businesses.

The application form also did not prove that the development of the solar farm would have no impact on wildlife, habitats and the grazing needs of commoners’ livestock.

Chair of the New Forest NPA Planning Committee Gordon Bailey said:

“The committee decided to refuse this application as it was not considered to be appropriate in the protected National Park landscape setting.

“The applicant had not adequately demonstrated that it needed to be located here rather than on an alternative site outside the National Park.”

The National Park Authority in 2024 has granted planning permission for a number of renewable energy developments that “are appropriate to their setting and do not conflict with” the statutory National Park purposes.

Many small-scale domestic developments incorporating solar panels such as outbuildings, extensions and replacement homes have also been approved.

Solar farm on agri-land

Meanwhile, the UK’s energy security secretary, Claire Coutinho said that higher quality agricultural land should be protected from large solar projects.

Solar projects should be developed on brownfield land, contaminated land, industrial land and lower quality agricultural land so as not to compromise the UK’s food security, she said.

Coutinho emphasised the need for solar to be delivered in a “sensible way” – ensuring developers and planning authorities consider the cumulative impact solar projects can have on local communities.