ENERGY to power more than 6,000 homes – almost all of Verwood and Three Legged Cross – will be created now a plan for a 45-hectare solar farm has been approved.

Councillors at East Dorset District Council gave the green light to the Solstice Renewables project to change the use at Homelands Farm from agriculture to mixed use, for agriculture and a solar photovoltaic farm spanning four fields.

Members of the planning committee agreed that the site is well-screened from residents and the public along all borders except a short stretch of bridleway where a new hedge will be created.

Solstice Renewables will build the 20MW solar farm on the site, of which a section will be reserved for building wildlife habitats.

The solar farm will be dual use, with sheep grazing in the winter, a habitat to be provided for birds and seeding of wild flowers to encourage bees and butterflies in summer.

Verwood will also take advantage of the solar park’s community benefit fund of £1,000 per MW installed – estimated to total £400,000 over the solar farm’s lifetime.

Verwood First School and Emmanuel Middle School will each receive £2,000 per year to fund field trips to the solar farm.

Solstice Renewables director Giovanni Maruca said: “We are very pleased with the strong level of support our plans received from both the local community and the councillors.

“They recognised the substantial benefits that this would bring locally, and that this was an appropriate development in the green belt, protecting the land for 25 years without excluding it in the future.”

A well-attended public consultation was held on July 17 with the majority of people saying they supported the plans.