Court threat over solar farm
Campaigners have reacted angrily to the approval of a plan to site thousands of solar panels on farmland.
Stoke Golding residents filled the public gallery at the Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council planning meeting to oppose the scheme by Freetricity.
But councillors passed the proposal on the casting vote of chairman Rob Mayne.
The decision means nearly 8,000 solar panels will be placed on a 17-acre site next to the recreation ground.
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Freetricity said the project would produce enough electricity to power more than 600 homes.
The protesters' spokesman, Bernard Lamb, said they were considering a legal challenge to the decision.
Mr Lamb, who spoke at the meeting in Hinckley on Tuesday, said: "We are obtaining legal advice to see if we can challenge the decision at a judicial review.
"We are also looking at taking the council to the ombudsman. We believe the council has broken its own policies by allowing a commercial development in the countryside.
"We also believe the council has not consulted properly."
More than 400 people had signed a petition and about 100 others written letters opposing the project. Eleven letters of support were received.
Stoke Golding Concerned Residents' Action Group was set up to co-ordinate opposition. Members were concerned the solar farm would damage the appearance of the area and have an adverse impact on the sports field.
Mr Lamb said the community felt let down by the committee and the councillors who did not support the call to reject the scheme.
He said: "There were 60 people in the public gallery and a further 20 outside in the foyer. We were all very disappointed at the outcome."
Ward district councillor Reg Ward abstained in the vote after his proposal to defer a decision to allow talks involving the council, developer and protesters was defeated.
Mr Ward, who is also chairman of Stoke Golding Parish Council which opposed the plan, said he felt he could not vote against it in committee because of the national need for renewable energy.
Planning officers had recommended the scheme should be approved because of the contribution it would make to renewable energy targets.
In a report, they said: "There are considered to be no adverse impacts on the character or appearance of the countryside."
A spokesman for the council said: "The authority stands by the professional opinion of its planning officers."
Freetricity director Stephen Wiseman said: "We are pleased with the decision and look forward to working with the community in integrating the project into the area."
He said the company expected to start work next month and that the site could be producing electricity within about 12 weeks.