A HUGE solar panel farm that would power 3,600 local homes could be part of the Billericay landscape for the next 26 years if plans are approved.

MS Power Projects, which is behind the plan for the farm the size of around 33 football pitches on fields at Outwood Farm, off Outwood Farm Road, has submitted a planning application to Basildon Council.

The firm said “special circumstances”

should allow it to build on the green belt site because of the environmental benefits of the renewable energy scheme which could save 106,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime.

Plans detail how the 60-acre site, which would be covered with hundreds of 2.5 metre-high panels in rows of 20, would save 4,000 tonnes a year of carbon dioxide emissions.

There would be 14 greencoloured three-metre high enclosures where electricity would be passed to the National Grid.

Echo: Local people up in arms over planned solar farm

Future farm: Solar panels would power up to 3,600 homes

A two-metre fence would surround the boundary of the site with 2.5-metre CCTV cameras at 35 metre intervals to acts as security for the unmanned site.

Plans have met with a lukewarm response from councillors.

Andrew Baggott, Tory ward councillor for Burstead, said: “I do not think there should be any development of the green belt unless it is absolutely essential.

“There has been a furore about houses going on the green belt. I weigh that against the families that end up being forced away because there are no properties which shows there is a need for building in a constrained way with necessary infrastructure.

“But my view is solar panels are a luxury we could do without.”

He added that if the majority of residents in the area wanted it, he would review his position.

MS Power did a public consultation before submitting the plans and said people, particularly homeowners inCoxes Farm Road, Billericay, were concerned about the visual impact of the solar farmand feared it could be visible from their homes.

In a planning statement it said: “The main areas of interest were related to landscape, visual and ecological matters, with much focus on habitat creation, hedgerow planting and views from residential properties.”

However, it said most people supported the principle and were satisfied with the “low-lying nature of the development”.

Developing the site would take ten weeks with up to ten delivery lorries per day during construction.

The firm added there would be little visual impact as the site was in a valley with several trees and hedgerows.

The statement added: “At the end of the 26-year operational period the structure, including all ancillary equipment and cabling, would be carefully dismantled and removed from the site.

“The development will make a noteworthy contribution to Basildon’s renewable energy targets and provides a low carbon technology.”

! Last November, plans for a solar farm in Laindon were approved. It will be the size of 12 football pitches and on a site off Lower Dunton Road, generating enough power to supply 2,300 homes.