PLANS to build a huge solar farm which has been likened to a 'prison compound’ near Whitminster have been approved.

JBM Solar Projects 7 Ltd has been granted permission by Stroud District Council to build, operate and maintain the plant which could power up to 15,000 homes.

It will cover 286.6 acres of fields split into two parcels of land, one near Moreton Valence and the other northwest of Whitminster.

Panels will measure 9.84 ft tall and will be set in straight arrays on a tracking system which means they angle to face the sun.

Nearly 70 people wrote in support of the scheme while 47 opposed the proposals and parish councils also raised several concerns.

Ward councillors John Jones (C, Severn) and Stephen Davies (C, Severn) spoke against the scheme.

They told the planning committee last Tuesday, March 29 that while they recognise the need for alternative sources of electricity, covering hundreds of acres of agricultural land was not the way forward.

Cllr Jones said: “Food production lost by allowing the application to go ahead will have to be made up elsewhere. Possibly abroad and imported back into this country which is not good for British farmers and certainly not for carbon footprints.”

He also said solar panels should be put on rooftops or brownfield land and not cover vast swathes of countryside.

Cllr David Paynter, of Whitminster Parish Council, said they object to the size and location.

“Who wants to walk through the middle of a field covered in solar panels? It would be like walking through a prison compound with its high fences and CCTV cameras,” he said.

Adam Withers, speaking for the applicant, said the scheme was a bold response to climate change and would help the district’s environmental efforts.

“People want clean energy, they want cheap energy and they want secure energy. This scheme ticks all of those boxes,” he said.

Council officers recommended approving the scheme subject to conditions and the planning committee voted to approve the proposals by six votes to one.

The committee also included a condition that forbids deliveries to the Whitminster site on Saturdays.