The company behind plans for a huge solar park in the countryside between Truro and Newquay have given a response to concerns raised at a public meeting where residents likened the proposed 125,000-panel solar farm in Cornwall to a “glass and concrete prison”.

Representatives from Downing Renewable Developments LLP say the proposed 210-acre solar park would actually improve the countryside in a rural valley at Hendra near Mitchell, rather than ruin it as concerned locals fear. The farm, Fairpark, between Carland Cross and Landrine would have a generating capacity of 49.9MW and run for 30 years.

More than 100 concerned people, including farmers, attended a meeting at St Erme Community Centre last month to air their worries about the planning application. Residents and business owners choked back tears as they told a packed meeting how they fear the giant solar park – a quarter of the size of Truro – could decimate hundreds of acres of countryside and ruin lives and businesses.

The meeting heard from Ken Evans, who runs a wedding and holiday lets business, Hendra Barns, with his wife Maggie in the heart of the proposed solar park site. He said: “Since June 2022 our business has been on hold really. We’ve lost a lot of business from people who have found out there could be a solar farm here – we lost four weddings last year.

"If it’s allowed and customers Google us all they will see is solar panels – I don’t think we will get any more weddings or holidays because people will be penned in.”

Mr Evans added: “We will be enclosed by a fence – it will feel like living in a zoo rather than open countryside.” Others raised concerns about the effect on wildlife, the possible visual impact, flooding from surface water and the loss of agricultural land.

'Not a glass prison'

However, Ameet Juttla, from the company, said: “It’s not a glass and concrete prison. One of the comments that was made was about the fencing – palisade fencing is only around the batteries in a secluded area, which was chosen specifically to ensure that you can’t see it. Apart from that, there will be deer fencing at most. We’re trying to use existing vegetation and hedgerows as part of the screening. Deer fencing isn’t intrusive at all – it’s 1.8m high, a common agricultural fence.

“We’ve taken the wildlife into consideration and undertaken all our ecological assessments, and any form of nesting and birds that are there will remain. Wildlife will still be able to remain underneath those panels and have a thriving area to live within, so it’s actually making it better.”


An example of the sort of solar panels which would be installed at the site near Mitchell (Pic: Downing Renewable Developments LLP)

An example of the sort of solar panels which would be installed at the site near Mitchell (Pic: Downing Renewable Developments LLP)


He added: “Yes, there will be deer fencing to ensure no deer hit the panels, but there are corridors that are available for the deer to go around. The fencing will have a gap at the bottom, which allows other forms of wildlife like hedgehogs and badgers to pass through. We’ve also got bee hotels and our biodiversity net gain (BNG) is a 148% increase, so habitats are improved rather than reduced. We’re going above and beyond BNG as the guidelines only set out a ten per cent increase.”

The site – a large area of which was previously approved for construction of a solar farm – is currently used for growing daffodils and other bulbs, but sheep grazing will be part of Downing Renewable Developments LLP’s plans.

Loss of agricultural land

In response to concerns about the loss of agricultural fields, the company has stated: “We note that the majority of the site is not currently used for food production, and the landowner has confirmed that he has no intention to increase food production.”

With respect to visual impact and reflection from the panels, Mr Juttla said: “The areas that you will see from the A30 are really small and the panels would not face road users, so there won’t be any glint and glare. You will only be able to see the panels in small pockets. For example, there’s a house in the south which has farmland and they will be able to see the southernmost part of the site. People at Carland Cottages won’t actually see anything due to the lie of the land.

“Hendra Barns are one of the places at the heart of the site. On the plan, they will have solar around them, but when they’re actually in their property and in their gardens they will not actually see it because they’re at the top of the hill. They’ve also got a lot of vegetation around their own perimeter, so you can’t see anything.

“It’s a massive thing for us to undertake and ensure that the local planning authority are happy about any visual concerns, especially with the locals and we’ve done a lot around that.”

His colleague Matthew Bellward added: “We’ve done more than others would do, in terms of adding buffers to areas that may be of more concern to local residents. In addition to that, we’ve increased screening in those areas too by adding hedgerows.”

Flooding fears

Concerns over flooding appear to exist based on the current land use, says the developer, which noted that flooding has been increasing over recent years. “As part of the project we will implement and maintain a drainage scheme which will reduce rather than increase likelihood of flooding.”

Mr Juttla stressed that the company is not developing the site and then handing it to someone else to run. “We’re a cradle to grave developer and constructor. We operate the sites with our own asset team. We’ve got solar sites, battery sites, wind sites that we develop, construct and operate. That’s what makes us stand out above others. Everyone in that area will have direct numbers for our operational team and anything of concern, we come out and fix it. We will come to that site on a monthly basis to make sure everything’s okay.


A plan showing the extent of the Fairpark solar park (Pic: Downing Renewable Developments LLP)

A plan showing the extent of the Fairpark solar park (Pic: Downing Renewable Developments LLP)


“We’re here not to last a couple of years, but the entire time period and to help the community as much as possible. We feel we have addressed concerns through the planning statement and local engagement, with the local planning authority and their dedicated teams such as archaeological and flood teams.”

He said if people still had concerns, they are free to speak to the company “and we can show you that everything is okay and will be okay going forward”.

Benefits to community

The company said there will be huge benefits not just when it comes to renewable energy but for those people living in the local community.

Mr Bellward said: “In terms of community benefit, it’s £1,000 per megawatt for the local parish councils. So we’re talking about a quarter of a million pounds to be used for local projects and community initiatives. We’ve got a unique community benefit where we offer residential solar panels to local residents on a yearly basis on their roofs. For this site it would be six residential houses that would get free solar per year for the lifetime of the project. This project’s 30 years so you’re talking 180 houses. That can be targeted at those who need it most or those who are potentially impacted by this site.

“The wider benefit is clean renewable energy for approximately 12,000 houses per year. That aligns with Cornwall Council’s target of being carbon neutral by 2030.”

The Fairpark application PA23/02629 is available to view on Cornwall Council’s planning portal. It could come before a strategic planning committee meeting as early as next month.