A renewable energy scheme which could provide power for more than 10,000 homes has been rejected after councillors heard it would ruin “England’s finest view”.

A meeting of Hambleton District Council’s planning committee heard claims the proposed solar farm near Carlton Husthwaite and Husthwaite, between Easingwold and Thirsk, would appear industrial and span about 51 hectares – more than the combined area of 100 Olympic swimming pools.

Councillors said while they wholeheartedly supported clean energy generation, the proposal was inappropriately close to Sutton Bank, which James Herriot author Alf Wight described as England’s finest view, as well as the Kilburn White Horse.

They concluded it made “no sense to destroy an environment to protect the environment”, adding that there were potential brownfield sites in the area and as there were already 220 acres of solar farms nearby the cumulative impact of the proposal was too much.

Councillor Andrew Robinson said: “If we are not careful Hambleton will become the solar panel centre of the universe.”

Lightrock Power and Econergy had stated their proposal would generate 45,000 MWh of electricity per year at Woolpots Solar Farm, benefitting many people.

The committee heard developers had cut the amount of high grade agricultural land on the proposed scheme.

Councillors were told there remained concerns over flying safety issues from glare from the solar panels on aircraft using Baxby Airfield, the uses of which include training for pilots, just 300 metres from the proposed site.

The meeting heard the site was in a “particularly lovely part of the district” and featured “a dramatic vista”, about 2km from the North York Moors National Park and closer still to the Howardian Hills Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), as well as ancient village conservation areas.

Officers said despite pledges by the developers to introduce planting of vegetation around the solar farm, the photovoltaic array would appear “incongruous” in the landscape and have a significant impact on the designated area’s settings and characters.

York Press: The Kilburn White Horse getting a new lick of paint. Picture: Richard Doughty The Kilburn White Horse getting a new lick of paint. Picture: Richard Doughty

Carlton Husthwaite and Husthwaite residents told the meeting they supported discrete schemes where solar panels could be screened, putting solar panels on roofs and using brownfield sites, but vigorously opposed “the wholesale industrialisation of the countryside”.

They said there had been an overwhelming number of objections to the scheme, partly because the proposal would transform the gateway to the national park and AONB into “the entrance to an industrial estate”.

Residents described the proposed area as “a haven of tranquility”. The meeting also heard concerns over the impact the solar farm could have on tourism and many nearby businesses, such as award-winning campsite Baxby Manor.

One resident stated: “We don’t mind being accused of being nimbys when our back garden is one of the most valuable assets….”

However, a spokesman for Lightrock Power said the proposed scheme was smaller than another solar farm close to Husthwaite visible from Sutton Bank, which had generated power for homes in Hambleton.

He said although Natural England had been very clear that solar farms did not constitute the loss of farmland as they were reversible, glare from the panels could easily be mitigated and Hambleton council had “an enviable reputation” for approving solar farms.

The spokesman said while “a small group of agitators” had “shouted loudly and persistently”, both the national park and AONB had welcomed moves to lessen the impacts on the landscape.