Actor John Nettles fights to protect Devon land from solar development

Laura White
Laura White

By sharon goble

One of TV’s best-known actors, Bergerac and Midsomer Murders star John Nettles OBE, is spearheading a campaign by countryside charity Devon CPRE against plans for yet another huge solar farm, right on his doorstep in northwest Devon.

The veteran actor, author and narrator of Channel 4’s Devon and Cornwall series, who moved to rural Devon more than a decade ago, says if permission is given for the biggest solar farm in the county to date – next to a large existing one – it will have a devastating impact on the beautiful area he loves.

Supporters of Devon CPRE were dismayed when a 150-acre solar farm at Litchardon Cross in North Devon was unanimously approved last month, despite valid objections from local people who will have to bear the impact of it. Fearful that an even bigger 164-acre proposal at Derril Water near Pyworthy will similarly be given the go-ahead, John Nettles is now backing Devon CPRE’s fightback.

John Nettles, © Matt Austin

Speaking exclusively to The Moorlander, Mr Nettles said: “I became aware of the proposal when a local vet apprised me of the facts. This development would be extraordinary and huge, and 164 acres of farmland would be lost to wildlife and livestock, and rendered unusable. Developers claim livestock can continue to graze the land, but that’s nonsense. It would ruin 164 acres of pasture for at least 40 years.”

A campaign video presented and narrated by the actor, including drone footage of Pyworthy’s existing solar installations and the site of the proposed new one, will soon be released by Devon CPRE on the charity’s website and Facebook page

John Nettles’ smallholding near Holsworthy, where he keeps donkeys and horses, abuts land on which South-East based developer RES wants to install nearly 76,000 solar panels on 29,200 pile-driven posts surrounded by 5.4 miles of security fencing, 85 CCTV cameras on poles and 15 inverter substations in industrial containers each with hard-standing. Mr Nettles continued: “We already have several solar farms in this area, we already have more than our fair share.

‘This new proposed development is more than we should be asked to support.”

Over four thousand acres of farmland in Devon, more than seven square miles of agricultural land, have already been developed for solar farms and plans for several other massive solar installations are yet to be decided, totalling 1,000 acres. The Derril Water proposal is within a mile of the Upper Tamar Area of Great Landscape Value and within two miles of two other AGLVs.

Mr Nettles added: “Where does one draw the line, and a line must be drawn if the character of the countryside is to be preserved and conserved. It’s a question of balance, degree and appropriateness.

‘I think the assumption is because Pyworthy is a small place, there won’t be much objection. But once a model is established with farmers being paid vast amounts of money for their land and that land turned over to these solar farms, that model will be easily repeated elsewhere.”

Devon CPRE Director Penny Mills commented: “Perhaps planners will sit up and take notice now that a respected actor and household name is supporting our opposition to the Pyworthy proposal. As a result of the pandemic, we know people have both a greater appreciation of the true value of the countryside, and a greater understanding of how easily we can destroy the natural balance of nature – at our peril. Let’s not fool ourselves, this part of Devon is on the verge of being ruined. We don’t see any justification for yet another massive industrial proposal. Why do we want to destroy Devon’s unique selling point – its beautiful countryside?”

Speaking to Devon CPRE, Mr Nettles concluded: “People need to understand the enormous scale and visual impact of these solar farms. Three together would desecrate the pastoral vista in this part of Devon, turning it into an industrialised landscape of solar panels and security fencing stretching across 28 fields.

‘Obviously, we all need to reduce our carbon footprint but it’s a question of getting the right balance. Decision-makers may think they’re doing the right thing by consenting to what
the solar farm developers claim to be ‘green energy’, however, they have failed to take into account the carbon footprint of manufacturing 76,000 solar panels on the other side of the world, transported and installed here. I’m supporting Devon CPRE’s opposition to this hideous scheme because ‘Enough is enough’. Local Planning Authority Torridge District Council has to say no!”

To view the video

Local Life