CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after plans to install tens of thousands of solar panels on 24 acres of farmland were rejected by council planning chiefs.

Hadstone Energy wanted to install 20,000 solar devices in Chailey, near Lewes. The plant at Tomkins Farm would have produced enough energy to power almost 1,000 homes and came in response to a Government-led initiative to encourage the production of renewable energy through a feed-in tariff system.

However, Lewes District Council rejected the idea on Wednesday night after a fierce campaign by villagers. Hadstone Energy has indicated it will appeal the decision.

Campaigner Sally Varlow said: “However much we need renewable energy, it doesn’t have to be solar energy. There are other more efficient forms and it doesn’t have to be produced by putting solar panels on green fields and agricultural land.

“We are all in favour of renewable energy initiatives that benefit the local community, such as the solar power station on the roof of Harveys Brewery, but the proposal for Tomkins Farm would have had no such benefits."

“Yes, it would have produced energy for the National Grid on sunny days, but the cost to the countryside was simply too high.”

Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes, supported the campaigners.

Welcoming the decision, she said: “I support the generation of energy from renewable sources but they have to be appropriate to their area and have the support of local people.

“This was not the position in the case of the proposed solar installation at Tomkins Farm.

“I was happy to lend my support to the campaign and also congratulate the campaigners on their hard work in putting together the case against the proposed development.”

A spokesman for Hadstone Energy said the company was “disappointed” by the decision.

He said: “Lewes District Council’s own target requires the district to provide 30% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Tomkins Solar Farm would provide 5MW of that 100MW target.

“Unfortunately on this occasion, some members of the committee aligned themselves with the Stop Industrialising Tomkins Farm campaign.

"This means that Hadstone Energy, Southern Solar and the taxpayer will now have to fund an appeal against the decision of the committee.”