Plans are afoot to build a solar farm in a field next to the busy M3.

Hart District Council has been asked to rule on whether an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is needed for the proposed scheme on fields between the railway line and the M3 off Holt Lane in Hook.

Applicant Ben Lewis has applied to Hart to see if an EIA is needed, as any development more than 0.5 hectares in size could have a significant impact on the environment and may need one under UK regulations.

Mr Lewis is proposing to install an eight-megawatt (MW) solar farm to provide enough electricity to power about 2,500 homes.

He said that no major engineering works would be required and the main issue surrounding the principle of this type of development centres on the landscape impact.

“The development would sit in the context of a large industrial area 200 metres to the north east – and with the M3 to the south,” he said.

“There are already man-made intrusions into the natural landscape.

“There are public rights of way in the vicinity, although none that would be directly affected by the proposal.

“The landscape has the ability to absorb the proposed development,” he argued, adding: “The surrounding landscape offers theoretical and limited views of the solar farm.”

Mr Lewis said the site is adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) but claimed its designation interests would not be prejudiced by the proposed development.

He said there are some nearby listed buildings which the application will need to have due regard for.

“The orientation of the proposed panels in combination with the distances to the nearest residential properties dictates that glint and glare to residents would be negligible,” argued Mr Lewis.

“The level of the field in relation to the adjacent M3 would ensure that glint and glare should also not be an issue for road users.

“A glint and glare assessment would, however, accompany a planning application submission.”

The solar farm would operate for about 25 years, after which all the structures can be removed.

Mr Lewis pointed out that Hart had ruled that an EIA was not required for a proposed 4MW farm on the same site last August.

Natural England has al-ready ruled that an EIA is not necessarily required for the application. But it added that as the proposed site is close to an SSSI, any subsequent planning application should include a detailed assessment of the likely impacts of the proposal on the designated site.

Hart’s environmental health department has said that should an EIA be required or the proposed development is progressed, detailed consideration should be given to the issue of lighting and glare.

Hart hopes to make a decision on whether an EIA is needed by March 26. If one is not needed it would clear the way for a planning application to be submitted.