A VILLAGE is battling over plans to install 20,000 solar panels in a farmer’s field.

Chailey Parish Council unanimously voted against the proposal for Tompkins Farm in the village. However, the application will go to Lewes District Council for approval.

It is argued that the planned 24-acre site has little value for food production and would be ideal for a solar farm.

Supporters say the 20,000 panels will power the equivalent of 1,400 households and provide 5MW of electricity.

The landowner, Philip O’Conor, grazes sheep on his land. He has said he would continue to let them graze under the solar panels but other locals want him to farm the land instead.

Mr O’Conor said: “The hypocrisy of the campaigners’ argument is that between them they own at least 225 acres of land, much of which adjoins Tomkins Farm, yet not a single one of them farms it – they leave it untouched or topped once a year, and allow the spread of ragwort and thistle on to adjoining land.”

Chailey resident Rob Funnell said he is furious at the plans.

He said: “There is such strong feeling throughout the parish against this plan.

“We’ve gathered over 400 signatures from people who oppose this plan, and 160 have sent written objections to Lewes District Council.”

Another resident, Sally Varlow, said: “There is absolutely no long-term evidence that this kind of ‘double-decker’ farming works.

“We object to the plan because it would put an industrial development in the middle of unspoilt farming land.”

Hadstone Energy is the group behind the development. It has said the panels will be on site for 25 years before being taken away.

Philip Deeks, of Hadstone Energy, said: “It is a real pity that a small group of people claim to want farming on these fields, but actually are not supporting Mr O’Conor’s local farm.

The plans will now go to Lewes District Council for a final decision to be made on the development.