PROTECTING the Forest of Bowland and Pendle Hill must be balanced against new climate change and renewable energy needs, councillors have been warned.

The call came as members of Pendle Council’s Barrowford and Western Parishes Committee, debated a planning application for solar panels at a site in Newchurch in Pendle, in the valley south of Pendle Hill.

William Lancaster wanted ground-mounted solar equipment and infrastructure on a field at Douglas Hall Cottage at Spen Brook Road, near a house, a kennel business and a telecoms mast. He unveiled plans for five rows of solar panels in the field, no greater than 1.6m high, and a small building.

Planning officers advised councillors to refuse the application as it was on a ridge with a footpath on the south side and views would be “dramatically different” as a result.

Andrew Walker, of Roughlee Parish Council, said: “I think there’s an issue with trying to support sustainable energy schemes like this. It’s a very small scheme and its next to an eyesore telecoms mast, which is much-more dominant.

“You could see these solar fittings from a footpath but there is scope for some planting and a drystone wall, which would successfully screen the site from distant views. The panels would not be high and they would face away from some of the area.

“We cannot simply reject everything in the AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). We ought to consider a balance with the benefits of renewable energy schemes. I personally disagree with the advice to refuse this.”

But Ainsley Macadam, from Goldshaw Booth Parish Council, added: “We object and think it could set a precedent. There are two or three families who own much of the valley. There are other ways to have renewable energy schemes, such as air source and ground source heat pumps. Those would not change the profile of the valley.”

In some letters of objection sent to Pendle Council, concerns included the proposed solar panels being an ‘eye sore’ in the area of outstanding natural beauty

Borough leader Cllr Nadeem Ahmed said: “I think this would set a really dangerous precedent and look really detrimental to the AONB. It’s a judgement we have to make.”

But Mr Walker felt talk about landowners possibly coming-back in future with bigger solar panel schemes was a ‘red herring’ and irrelevant to the cottage plan.

Area committee members voted to reject the proposals.