Olympian Carl Hester warns Gloucestershire solar farm plans could hurt Team GB

Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester have voiced concerns about proposals for a six megawatt solar farm in rural Gloucestershire

Two Olympians have raised concerns that plans for a solar farm in rural Gloucestershire could hurt Team GB at the next games.

Olympic medalists Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester have said the proposed 34 acre site may hinder both riders and horses gearing up for the team's selection process.

The pair both ride in the narrow country lanes north of Stream Lane in Upleadon, near to where farmland has been earmarked for the solar panels.

Pathfinder Clean Energy UK Dev Ltd is seeking permission to use the land to construct a six megawatt solar farm, which would produce enough energy to power more than 2,600 homes.

But the idea has proved controversial with local people, the parish council and the Olympic stars.

In a letter to the Forest of Dean District Council, Carl wrote the plans would lead to increased road traffic on the country lanes, which could make it unsafe for equestrian training.

A map outlining how the proposed solar farm would be laid out Credit: Pathfinder Clean Energy

He said: "Stream Lane and Hooks Lane are single country lanes with grass verges. Traffic on these lanes and in particular Stream Lane is very light.

“There are limited passing places on both of these lanes so any increase in traffic by virtue of construction traffic will have a significant impact and is most likely to create safety issues for cyclists, horse-riders and walkers.

“From a personal point of view both Charlotte Dujardin and I very much benefit from hacking my horses out around these lanes which is vital for their fitness regime and down time in their preparation for GB Olympic team selection."

The Team GB dressage rider added that any large construction vehicles using the country lanes would "mean significant risk to both horses and riders" and would leave them unable to use the roads.

This would be "detrimental in their preparation for these events", he said.

Carl Hester competing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Credit: PA Images

The three-time Olympic medalist also added that as well as interfering with training for Team GB, plans for the solar farm could have a negative impact on the environment.

Carl wrote: "There would be potential damage by vehicles during construction of site to flora and wild flowers including native regional daffodils, native bluebells and ancient perry pear trees, located along/adjacent to verges of Stream Lane.

"There is already a substantial solar farm near Malswick with another proposed and I believe approved on the same road," he continued.

"I do not feel it is necessary to use the area in Upleadon which will be unsightly for the landscape, residents and visitors to the village.

"It will cause much disruption to the wildlife and natural habitat."

But the developers have contested that it will have a negative impact on the environment as the solar panels would be fixed to the ground via metal piles.

They have said that the farm would produce enough clean energy to power thousands of homes while offsetting more than 1,900 tonnes of CO2 per year.

This would support the UK’s goal of net-zero carbon by 2050 and contribute to the climate emergency declared by the Government and the district council, they claimed.

The solar farm would also facilitate the transition to a zero carbon energy system and significantly increase the biodiversity of the site, while livestock would still be able to graze, according to the applicant.

The proposals for the solar farm are due to be considered by planners at the council by 4th January 2023.

Credit: Carmelo Garcia, Local Democracy Reporter Service