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Grandfather's anger over North Walsham sun farm

PUBLISHED: 13:29 17 November 2011

Malcolm Smith, who lives near the sun farm in North Walsham say his life has been severly disrupted during the construction and position of the site. The view from his garden.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Malcolm Smith, who lives near the sun farm in North Walsham say his life has been severly disrupted during the construction and position of the site. The view from his garden. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011

A grandfather claims his retirement has been ruined by the construction of a huge solar farm just yards from his north Norfolk home.

Malcolm Smith says the vast renewable energy scheme - that covers nearly 30 acres - has knocked £40,000 off the value of his property and destroyed the quiet, countryside views that prompted him to move to Worstead.

The 57-year-old also claims disruption from four months of construction work at the farm off the A149 near North Walsham forced him to sleep downstairs, which placed extra stress on him and wife Barbara at a time when he was undergoing chemotherapy for terminal cancer.

He is now calling for an apology from applicant PV Farms, which he believes misled him over the plans, and wants compensation to match what he says has been wiped from his Heath Road home.

But Richard Atkins, a managing director at the Norwich-based firm, has strongly refuted any suggestion the Smiths were lied to and said his company had “bent over backwards” to accommodate them and “conceded” to their wishes.

Mr Smith, a retired decorator and builder, said he did not object to North Norfolk District Council when the scheme was first proposed, as he said he was given assurances by PV Farms over his concerns, including the farm’s proximity to his house.

The grandfather-of-eight said: “We have never been against it, we’re all for this renewable energy. But why should I lose out on my house?”

“We have been putting up with this for nine months and there’s so many different aspects to it. Not once has anybody come and said, look we’re awfully sorry but this is the way it’s going to be. The way we have been treated is shocking,” he added.

The couple moved from Hertfordshire to the semi-detached property 12 years ago and planned to enjoy their retirement years in the countryside. But Mr Smith is now worried about his wife’s future following his diagnosis with cancer last Christmas and the effect the sun farm has had on his home.

He said: “Our retirement’s been totally ruined. If anything happens to me Barbara’s going to have to sell the house for 40 grand less. It’s a beautiful little place and we have spent a lot of money doing it up as well.”

Mr Atkins said he had “every sympathy” for Mr Smith as he was undergoing chemotherapy and said PV Farms fully intended to pay the couple £15,000 in compensation for any inconvenience the construction of the farm had caused.

He also said his company had dealt with the couple’s complaints and did not agree their house had been devalued by £40,000.

Mr Atkins added: “We as a company have actually bent over backwards to accommodate Mr Smith. We removed the back panels so they have a view over the field, we have done an awful lot to try and help them out.

“I feel incredibly sorry for Mr Smith, I understand his situation is quite serious, but we have always attempted to play a straight bat with him.

“We’re intending to keep our promises as far as the Smiths are concerned, there’s no question of that.”

Once up and running the farm’s 18,000 photovoltaic panels, which stand about three meters (9.8ft) high, will generate five mega-watts of electricity - enough to power about 1,500 homes - which will be fed into the National Grid through the nearby North Walsham sub station.

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