Controversial plans to build a huge solar farm across 15 fields have been approved.

The application for more than 45 hectares of land at Cobwood, Burnthouse Lane, Cowfold, was given the nod by Horsham District Council's planning committee on Tuesday.

It will see panels installed on seven field parcels north of the A272 / Cowfold Road and eight to the south.

Between them they will generate around 49.9MW of renewable energy – enough to power 16,581 family homes per year.

The scheme will have a 40-year lifespan, with the land being returned to agricultural use when the panels are removed.

The council received objections from 116 addresses. One of them read: "This is a poorly thought out application with many flaws and contradictions throughout. It will cause further chaos on the A272 and the single track roads intended for use as access to site for a considerable time.

"Please don't destroy our beautiful countryside."

The Argus: Layout of proposed solar farm, Cowfold. Image: The Environmental Dimension Partnership Ltd/Horsham District Council planning portalAnother added: "This is a quiet and beautiful part of West Sussex. A number of deer, birds, foxes, stoats, rabbits, dormouse, bats and many number of other creatures live here quietly.

“The noise of the operation will scare the animals away and push them onto the roads. There is already a significant amount of roadkill on the roads around the area.”

Connie Towle, of Cowfold Parish Council, said the parish fully supported renewable energy projects in principle – but they had to be in an appropriate location.

She also said it did not sit well with residents that an Environmental Impact Assessment was not needed as the capacity of the scheme fell just below the 50MWs required.

She added: “Our concerns primarily relate to traffic management during the construction phase and the environmental impact during the operational life of the project.”

There was support for the scheme from Joanne Knowles (Lib Dem, Cowfold, Shermanbury & West Grinstead), even though she will be able to see the panels from her kitchen window.

In a statement to the committee she said: “We have to do something and right now solar is part of the solution.

“We can’t wait for perfect – time is running out.”

Quoting Sir David Attenborough, she added: “The future of all life depends on our willingness to take action now.

“For me, these solar panels are part of the solution – creating renewable energy, helping keep our emissions down and thus saving biodiversity.

“We can be proud that we are doing our bit for future generations.”

As well as the photovoltaic panels, the application included transformers, inverters and substations.

The panels will be laid out in rows running from east to west with a gap of around 3-4m between each row.

They will be frame-mounted with spiked foundations around 1-2m deep.

The application was approved by 11 votes to four with one abstention.

To view the plans in detail, log on to and search for DC/23/2172.