Plans for a huge solar farm in a North Herts village have been approved, despite widespread opposition.

A planning application for a solar farm on a 53.6 hectare field in the North Baldock Chalk Uplands in Bygrave was approved by North Herts Council's Planning Control Committee last week.

It means the developer can install between 80,000 and 95,000 solar panels on the site, which is within the setting of listed buildings and scheduled monuments, and is within an area of archaeological interest.

The proposed site for the solar farm.The proposed site for the solar farm. (Image: PACE)

The plans have been met with widespread objection from members of the public, as well as Bygrave and Ashwell parish councils, former North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald, Bygrave Action Group and environmental charity CPRE.

Concerns include the visual impact on the landscape, loss of wildlife habitats, increased traffic and noise, and the loss of agricultural land.

North Herts Council has confirmed that its own landscape consultant acknowledged that "the proposal would result in adverse landscape and visual impacts", but said that existing and proposed screening, and landscaping, would localise the adverse effects within 1km of the site.

An aerial view of the site.An aerial view of the site. (Image: PACE)

The council has also highlighted how it has declared a climate emergency and set a target of achieving net zero carbon emissions in the district by 2040.

It said: "The challenges and success in transitioning to a low carbon society is dependent on developing suitable sites for renewable energy generation and battery energy storage."

However, James Colegrave, chair of Bygrave Action Group, said: "The decision [to grant planning permission for the solar farm] shows the very real risk of placing the drive to achieve net-zero ahead of all other factors when considering planning proposals for solar plants."

The action group said reaching net-zero by 2040 has been put "ahead of the damage the plant will cause to the landscape, the very significant loss of BMV agricultural land - and impact on food security - and the safety of residents".

The applicant has indicated that the site would be decommissioned at the end of its 40- year operational life and restored to its existing arable agricultural use.

A spokesperson for North Herts Council spokesperson said: "On June 13, our Planning Control Committee resolved to accept the recommendation of officers and grant planning permission for the solar farm in Bygrave.

"The application had been carefully assessed by planning officers having regard to policies of the adopted North Herts Local Plan and all consultation responses.

"The chair of the committee held the casting vote and made her decision based on the officer’s report, submissions by attendees opposed to and in favour of the proposed development, and the debate and questions raised by committee members."