Duchess of Cornwall's son-in-law accused of 'underhand tactics'
EXCLUSIVE: Duchess of Cornwall’s ex-model turned eco entrepreneur son-in-law Harry Lopes, is accused by Wiltshire residents of using ‘underhand tactics’ to build 220 acre SOLAR farm on a beauty spot
- Harry Lopes owns and runs Eden Renewables which acquired 220 acres of land
- He wants to erect solar farm near Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Lopes employed Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall to run campaign to win over locals
Camilla Parker-Bowles’s son-in-law is locked in a furious battle with residents of a Wiltshire beauty spot over plans for a giant solar power farm
Harry Lopes, a scion of the super-wealthy Astor family who is married to the Duchess of Cornwall’s daughter, Laura Parker Bowles, has invested thousands in the project which is bitterly opposed by many locals.
Lopes, a former Calvin Klein model turned eco-entrepreneur, owns and runs Eden Renewables which has acquired 220 acres of land between the villages of Sevington and Leigh Delamere on the edge of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
There he wants to erect a 220 acre solar farm he claims will provide enough green electricity to power some 13,000 homes – while also enhancing the landscape by enabling wildlife to return to fields previously used to graze sheep.
To try to win over the locals – and to persuade the county council to give permission to proceed – Lopes has employed Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall, sister of celebrity chef and fellow old Etonian Hugh, to run a PR campaign.
Harry Lopes is a scion of the super-wealthy Astor family who is married to the Duchess of Cornwall’s daughter Laura Parker Bowles (pictured together in 2006)
Eden have described the land they want to build the farm on as ‘low grade’ and promised to plant new hedgerows, trees, and wildflowers to mitigate the development’s negative environmental impact – and say this will bring about ‘significant net biodiversity gain’, enhancing soil quality by leaving the land fallow, boosting carbon sequestration while allowing continued food production with grazing sheep.
Hedgerow planting should mean the sea of panels can’t be seen from local homes.
They point out that one edge of the site borders the M4 – it’s close to the services named after Leigh Delamere village – and that the electricity it generates will help recharge electric vehicles and thus reduce emissions from the motorway.
But despite the positive spin -they have faced furious opposition from some locals.
Opponents claim that the farm will devastate the landscape with 100,000 solar panels imported from China as well as 32 battery storage units the size of shipping containers. Some villagers have accused them of using ‘underhand tactics’ to try to win people over.
Lopes wants to erect a 220 acre solar farm he claims will provide enough green electricity to power some 13,000 homes
Philip Davey, a longstanding resident of Leigh Delamere who is actively campaigning against the development, said: ‘Eden have very deliberately and cynically appealed to the climate emergency, whilst painting a picture of this solar installation increasing biodiversity and enriching the community.
The reality is that this is first and foremost a commercial development that will industrialise the landscape with third rate and rapidly ageing technology and cause a great deal of damage to local wildlife and biodiversity.’ He added: ‘The first any of us knew about it was them going round in little electric cars offering everyone pots of organic honey and trying to soft sell it as a benefit. But it’s hardly a benefit to put tens of thousands of panels on your doorstep on what was grazing land.’
But a spokesman for Eden insisted there was local support too, saying: ‘We understand that solar farms can divide opinion, but there is a lot of local support for this solar farm; the recent extreme weather has underlined to many people the importance projects like this have in contributing to green energy generation and helping tackle the climate emergency.’
Lopes, a former Calvin Klein model turned eco-entrepreneur, owns and runs Eden Renewables which has acquired 220 acres of land near the village of Sevington (pictured)
The 220 plot is also near to the village of Leigh Delamere (church pictured) on the edge of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
They went on: ‘Leigh Delamere is a good site for a solar farm, as it is immediately south of the M4 and adjacent to the Motorway Services which will be able to benefit from the green electricity it generates, especially with the growing demand for high speed chargers for electric vehicles.
‘It will be well screened with new hedgerows and trees planted along the boundary with the M4, with existing trees and hedges along the other boundaries allowed to grow and supplemented with new planting where needed.
‘Our extensive studies submitted with the planning application show there will be minimal visual impact from Leigh Delamere village, which is the north side of the Motorway.
‘Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has provided independent advice to Eden on our plans to enhance and improve biodiversity and ecology at Leigh Delamere. For almost a decade the Eden team has led the solar industry in best practice on continuing agricultural use and biodiversity, transforming solar farms into wildlife havens for their lifetime.
‘This solar farm will provide a Biodiversity Net Gain of over 90% for habitat units and 23% for hedgerows, calculated using the independent metric from DEFRA.’
Spokesperson for Eden said: ‘Leigh Delamere is a good site for a solar farm, as it is immediately south of the M4 and adjacent to the Motorway Services’ (pictured)
Local parish councils have taken against the plans but Wiltshire Council, which has recently declared its ambitions to address the ‘climate emergency’, is due to consider the application when it meets later this month.
Lopes married Laura Parker-Bowles in 2008 at an 11th century church in Lacock, Wiltshire, just five miles from the site of the proposed solar farm.
They have a daughter, Eliza, 13, who was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, and twin boys Gus and Louis, Part of the site was previously run as Langley Chase Organic Farm was started to ‘provide high quality, traceable organic meat, and help save a rare breed of sheep’.
Its website showcases numerous awards, endorsements from celebrities including Rick Stein, and videos of its beautiful pastureland in North Wiltshire. It’s one of several projects Eden is considering in the county. It also has eco projects in the USA.
Source: Read Full Article