CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a solar farm almost the size of Washford in undulating open countryside have been overwhelmingly rejected by planners.

The scheme from TGC Renewables Ltd would have seen a 50-acre site at Aller Farm - east of Woodford and north of Monksilver - covered with just over 35,000 solar panels, a number of associated buildings and CCTV security cameras atop four-metre high poles.

But West Somerset Council's planning committee turned down the application for the grade 3b land - classed as moderate agricultural quality and owned by the Wyndham Estate - because of the harm it would cause to the surrounding landscape, including nationally designated and protected areas.

Councillors agreed with officers, critics and objectors that the development was in the wrong place.

The solar farm would have generated 8.27 megawatts of electricity - enough to power 2,281 homes.

But planning officer Elizabeth Peeks told a meeting to determine the application last Thursday that TGC had failed to demonstrate that it would not adversely harm the character of the landscape.

She said the company's landscape and visual impact assessment was insufficient due to a lack of information and clarity to assess the degree of harm - a view voiced by consultants brought in by the council who judged the document "inadequate in several areas".

Mrs Peeks said the proposal would have an adverse impact on the local landscape, in particular the Exmoor National Park and the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

And she said TGC had also failed to fully assess the effect of the solar farm on the setting of historic assets.

Although English Heritage had concluded the development would not have any significant impact on nationally important buildings, including the grade 1 listed Nettlecombe Court and Orchard Wyndham and grade 11* Weacombe House, Mrs Peeks said further archaeological work needed to be carried out on the site itself.

TGC's plans sparked a raft of objections, with concerns raised by six parish councils, the Exmoor National Park Authority and the Quantock Hills AONB, as well as organisations including the Friends of Quantock, CPRE Somerset and Somerset Gardens Trust.

Although highways chiefs raised no objection in principle, they were concerned about increased traffic on the approach roads during the construction of the development.

A total of 15 letters of objection were also received, with two letters in support.

Monksilver Parish Council clerk Ross Urquhart told the meeting that West Somerset was one of England's gems of rural beauty.

"This large development would be visible for miles around - near and far," he said.

"It is the size of a typical village and is wholly unacceptable."

Mr Urquhart said recent Government advice made it clear that the need for green energy did not automatically override environmental issues.

"What are the local benefits against local damage - none.

"There will be no jobs, no education, no training."

Jan Swann, chairman of Sampford Brett Parish Council, the host parish, described the proposal as "wholly inappropriate" in a rural area with expansive views.

"The site will be widely visible from the national park, the AONB, the Coleridge Way and many villages - there is no justification for using this site."

Mrs Swann said the solar panels would bring an industrial element into a rural landscape.

"It does not need to be in this location, it is not providing electricity for local consumption - it is the wrong site."

But a spokesman for TGC insisted that the solar farm would produce electricity for the local and not national grid.

He said the development would provide employment during its construction and local suppliers would also benefit.

And he defended the company's impact assessments, insisting that the development would go some way to providing a solution to the energy challenge facing the country.

But Cllr Chris Morgan told fellow councillors that the solar farm would have a considerable visual impact.

Cllr Stuart Dowding said he was all in favour of solar energy.

"But this is on an industrial scale on a beautiful rural landscape surrounded by the Quantock Hills, the Exmoor National Park and the Brendon Hills."

Cllr Dowding said the whole reason for TGC's choice of location was because it provided direct access to a grid connection using overhead lines.

But now it had been confirmed there was no spare capacity in those lines.

"So now the site could be moved," he said.

"This will be so visible - I am totally opposed to this application."

Cllr Anthony Trollope-Bellew said the land lay within the Quantock Hills and the Exmoor National Park.

"Anywhere else this would probably be a protected landscape."

He said he had expected the development to be sited on a slope above Woodford.

"But I could hardly believe it when I saw it was on top of a hill where these panels could be seen for miles around - I cannot support that."