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By Andrew Levy
PUBLISHED: 17:00 EST, 7 December 2012 | UPDATED: 17:00 EST, 7 December 2012
When Graham Cowley took early retirement, he wanted a home with views of unspoilt countryside.
But eight months after buying his dream bungalow, Mr Cowley was aghast to discover that the local council planned to build Europe’s largest renewable energy plant surrounding it.
If the plans go through, there will be half a million huge solar panels and several wind turbines only 100 yards from his front door. There will also be an 8ft security fence bristling with CCTV cameras.
Anger: Graham Cowley, owner of Hill Farm House in Crowland is understandably upset as his property could be covered by 500 acres of solar panels and five wind turbines
Father-of-three Mr Cowley, 47, said there was no evidence of the scheme when his solicitors carried out searches before he spent £225,000 on his home in Newborough, Cambridgeshire, and a further £18,000 building a garage.
He claims it is now almost worthless but he has been offered no compensation or the opportunity to relocate.
‘My views are going to be completely spoilt. I will look out of my house to see solar panels, huge wind turbines practically in my garden, and they want to install CCTV cameras.
‘I may as well commit a crime and go to jail as I would probably have a better quality of life. This is not a case of “not in my back yard”. It is a huge solar and wind farm surrounding my bungalow.’
Details: The plan for the energy farm
Mr Cowley said he was shocked when he received a letter from Conservative-run Peterborough City Council telling him of the scheme, which was originally intended to cover 3,000 acres. This was downgraded to a £140million scheme on 900 acres, producing enough energy to power more than 22,000 homes.
There would be nearly 500,000 solar panels and Mr Cowley said he has been told informally there would also be five wind turbines sited near his home.
Nine other people affected by the scheme – all tenant farmers renting council land – have been offered new land and compensation.
Mr Cowley, a retired water company engineer, said the first he heard of the plan was in a letter to ‘The Householder’ last summer. ‘Why have they not been down to see me rather than just posted an impersonal letter?’ he said.
‘It seems like a done deal and they have their fingers in their ears. I am in favour of renewable energy but the council has tons of other land where they could build this farm.’
Eyesore: How the field might look covered in solar panels
Other homeowners complained they learned of the development only through word of mouth.
Farmer William Cave said: ‘It’s very distressing. People will lose their livelihoods and homes.’
The scheme was discussed at a full council meeting and has entered the formal planning stage.
It is part of a ‘gold rush’ of applications submitted ahead of a cut in government subsidies for such projects and would be funded by government grants and private investment.
A contractor would install the solar panels but it would be managed by the council’s energy services company, Blue Sky Peterborough.
Peterborough City Council said the solar farm would make £100million profit over 25 years that would be invested in ‘frontline services’.
A council spokesman said locals’ concerns had to be balanced ‘against the needs of Peterborough’s 184,000-plus residents’.