A FAMILY say they fear their dream cottage in the remote North Cornwall countryside is about to be surrounded by renewable energy development after plans for Britain's biggest solar park were approved.
German firm Kronos Solar was given consent for a 138-acre solar park in fields at Maxworthy, near North Petherwin, by Cornwall Council's strategic planning committee.
The permission, granted at a meeting in Truro on Thursday, is subject to conditions relating to screening of the array by planting trees and safeguarding the water supply to nearby Little Exe Cottage.
However, Neil Moxon and Lizzie Webster, who bought the cottage eight years ago as an ideal place for their two young daughters to have a childhood in the countryside, say the Kronos Solar development and a scheme for an even larger park which could soon be put forward – right in front of their kitchen window – will put them in the centre of Cornwall's "solar triangle".
The cottage's remoteness has meant few people will be affected by the schemes, making the site attractive to companies jostling for a place in Cornwall's solar-powered gold rush.
The development around Maxworthy will lie within three parishes: Week St Mary, North Petherwin and Warbstow. Another, still in the scoping stage and requiring an environmental impact assessment before planning permission is sought, is for an even bigger array – 135,000 photovoltaic panels on 224 acres of adjoining farmland.
Renewables firm Good Energy, which also operates the Delabole wind farm, says it could reduce the energy bills of local residents.
Only one of three surrounding parish council objected to the Kronos proposal, which was recommended for approval by planning officers.
Local Cornwall councillor Phil Tucker said at first he had been "filled with dread" by the proposal.
"However, after making more investigations of the site I found it would have little effect on the landscape or the community," he said. "Overall, I think it would be difficult to find a more suitable site for a solar park."
Mr Moxon spoke against the plan at the meeting, saying he opposed it on the grounds of its size, its proximity to his property and secrecy in the way the process had been carried out.
"I think anyone would have a harder job to get an extension on their property passed than this huge development," he said.