Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Lymington community-owned solar park planned

Hedge planting at former landfill site Image copyright Anthony Woolhouse
Image caption Co-operative members have planted wild fruit hedging at the site to screen the panels and encourage wildlife.

A former landfill site on the edge of the New Forest is to be transformed into a solar farm, with local residents being invited to own a stake.

The 12.6 acre field, off Iley Lane in Lower Pennington will become home to a 2.4 MW solar farm, entirely owned and funded by a co-operative.

Shares in West Solent Solar Co-operative, aimed at raising £2.5m, are to be issued in the coming weeks.

Work will start within two weeks, with energy production due to begin in June.

The co-op missed out on government grants but members have already invested £150,000 to get the project off the ground using the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, which offers tax breaks to people investing in start-ups.

Anthony Woolhouse, who helped set up the co-operative in August, said encouraging wildlife back to the former landfill site was one of the group's priorities. Hundreds of trees to be planted on the boundary arrived last week and wild fruit hedging has already been installed.

He said: "The site was a gravel pit. We had an ecological survey done and the ground was really poor, there wasn't anything on it. We've had the hedgerow plants given to us by the Woodland Trust. They will be very attractive to wildlife."

Permanent planning permission for the scheme has already been granted and contracts signed.

The share offer and solar farm will be managed by Energy For All, which has previously helped a number of co-operatives to own wind turbines.

Image copyright Anthony Woolhouse
Image caption The area was once used for gravel extraction before becoming a landfill site and being grassed over.

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