INNOVATIVE plans for a solar energy farm in Christchurch have been rejected by Christchurch Borough Council.

Concerns over harm to the green belt led to officers refusing the application by Eco Sustainable Solutions to build the solar energy farm on 30 acres of land next to the company’s Chapel Lane site.

The scheme would have generated enough energy to meet the electricity needs of 1,100 homes annually and could have saved more than 2,530 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Trelawney Dampney, the firm’s managing director, said: “We are very disappointed. We understand their concerns but there has to be a degree of flexibility.

“We are currently looking at our options to see how to proceed now and whether we appeal or not.

“If we do, then obviously we hope that an appeal inspector will take a different view. It is what the government wants. I had hoped we could break out of those entrenched views that many still have about renewable energy.”

Officers said the development would have been inappropriate and harmful to the green belt. In a decision notice they also said Eco Sustainable Solutions had failed to justify very special circumstances to outweigh the harm caused as a result of the development’s “inappropriateness”.

It also said the application would cause material and visual harm to the green belt.

The farm would have seen around 36,000 photovoltaic panels on the land, which is currently being used for turf cultivation, with the panels no more than 1.5 metres high.

A planning statement submitted with the application said the site was well placed as Dorset has some of the highest levels of solar irradiation in the country.