Referendum will decide parish council’s view on controversial solar farm

An artist's impression of the Harrold Solar farm project.
An artist's impression of the Harrold Solar farm project.

A village referendum has been called so that residents can have their say on controversial proposals for a solar farm that has divided the community.

The project, actually designed to benefit Harrold, has created two camps – those for and those against the scheme.

Library image: An example of a solar farm.

Library image: An example of a solar farm.

At a extraordinary meeting of the parish council last Wednesday, villagers voted in favour of a referendum, which will be held on Thursday, April 30, and will decide how the council responds to the formal planning application.

Their view will be taken into consideration when Bedford Borough Council’s planning committee meet to make a decision on whether the project can go ahead.

Vice-chairman of the parish council, Councillor Robert Tickle, who chaired last week’s meeting, said: “There are strong views on both sides and, in fact, members of the parish council have different views privately.

“We will make a response based on what people in the village think and we thought the fairest way of doing that is by calling a referendum.

“It is not common but it does happen.”

The vote, which will cost Harrold taxpayers £1,200, will be conducted by Bedford Borough Council and, due to election rules, will not be held on the same day as the General Election. It has been welcomed by both the team behind the scheme HARE– Harrold Renewable Energy – and objectors from Harrold Save Our Countryside.

Objector Matthew Sumpton said: “I think it is great news because it lets people register their opinion in an unbiased way. It is a nice democratic thing to happen.

“I think there are a lot of people opposed to the solar farm and would like to see it not happen. It has been contentious.”

Mark Payne, from HARE, said: “As local people themselves HARE welcomes the villagers of Harrold being given their say in this important matter although ultimately it will be the planners who decide whether or not this community project will happen. We very much hope that it will as this will bring much needed income to the parish.”

The borough council’s planning committee will decide whether the solar farm proposed on the outskirts of Harrold can go ahead.

If given the green light it will see around 19,000 solar panels installed on farmland to the north of the village. Promoters say it is expected to generate up to £40,000 each year, which will be ploughed back into community causes.