Plans for a solar panel farm that could power nearly half of Mid Devon’s homes has been given the go-ahead.

The site near Dean Hill Road, Willand, is expected to generate nearly 50 megawatts (MW) of electricity, which the applicant, Low Carbon Solar, said could provide enough electricity for 16,581 properties – roughly 46 per cent of the district’s homes.

The firm also says it will mitigate roughly 11,210 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Some objectors raised concerns that Mid Devon has become a target for solar farm applications, more than other Devon districts, and that they take up highly fertile, arable land leading to the “industrialisation of the countryside”.

The land is near three other solar farms, prompting worries about the changing rural landscape.

Some local residents queried whether a solar farm of the scale proposed is in keeping with the area.

Mid Devon District Council’s planning officers said if more solar farm applications are received, their “cumulative impact would be assessed” and it could become too great, but that the benefits of this scheme outweigh disadvantages.

Most of the area to be used is deemed top grade agricultural land – known as ‘best and most versatile’ land, or BMV, in planning terms.

However, because the panels are on flat ground, so are not easily seen because of surrounding vegetation, and as they would sit on frames driven into the ground rather than being laid on concrete, planners were minded to approve the application.

Sheep would also continue grazing the land, and while two trees out of 112 would need to be removed for installation, thousands of saplings and 130 established trees would be planted, along with 800 metres of new hedgerow to support biodiversity.

Matt Lowmax, from Low Carbon Solar, noted the low number of objections to the scheme.

Although some objectors suggested the backlash was curbed because one of the company’s consultations with residents was held online during the school holidays when many people would have been away, with much of its other publicity was conducted through a website for the scheme.

Halberton Parish Council had initially objected in February, but its stance is now neutral because of the 25 conditions attached to any approval.

These included a specified route for construction traffic, which would see vehicles routed from the M5 through Willand and not Halberton.

Councillor Andrea Glover (Lib Dem, Lower Culm) said she hadn’t received any emails of objection from the public, and that the local councils no longer objected either.

“I’ve had some questions from people surrounding topics such as flooding concerns, and these have all been answered very quickly by the planning department,” she said.

“I’ve heard that more grass will be planted to help reduce the flooding risk, while different types of grass will be planted to help with biodiversity. Other questions about mud being brought onto the road from the fields during the installation process have also been dealt with, as the trucks will be checked and washed before they leave the site.”

Councillor Rachel Gilmour (Lib Dem, Clare & Shuttern) acknowledged that “the world has reached crisis point when it comes to climate change,” meaning it made sense to approve an application that could improve renewable electricity generation.

The solar panel farm is considered a temporary scheme, although permission has been granted for 40 years.