A large solar farm on the Isle of Wight has been given the go-ahead to produce energy for thousands of homes, despite concerns over the impact it could have on neighbouring ancient woodland.

The Sunny Oaks Renewable Energy Park can now be built on the outskirts of Wootton  — subject to 16 conditions — after the Isle of Wight Council's planning committee unanimously approved the plans.

The park, which will see solar panels installed across 27 hectares of land, could support more than 5,100 homes a year, generating around 20MW of renewable electricity.

Concerns were raised at the meeting about the impact of the solar farm on the neighbouring ancient wood, Fattingpark Copse, which was called rare, irreplaceable and vulnerable by its owner.

The park would be built on farmland owned by Briddlesford Lodge Farm, up the road from Butterfly World.

Councillors questioned whether the proposed buffer strip between the solar panels and the ancient woodland, 15m, was enough to protect the trees.

Planning officers said the council's tree and ecology officers had not complained about the buffer strip nor any harm the solar park would cause on the ancient woodland.

A biodiversity mitigation enhancement plan would take into account environmental concerns councillors had, officers said, and look to address them.

Cllr Julie Jones-Evans said the enhancement plan needed to be unique, to address the specific concerns, species and designations of Fattingpark Copse, and not a copy-and-paste version from somewhere else.

Councillors also felt a right of way along Briddlesford Road and Whiterails Road could have been included in the plans and were disappointed it was not as it would have taken cyclists and pedestrians off the main road.

Officers said it had been discussed but would have had serious operational and security risks to Briddlesford Farm as it would restrict herd movement, so the landowners were against it.

Energy would be supplied to the local network via Wootton Common substation and a battery energy storage system will also be built to hold some of the excess electricity generated.

The solar park would be operational for 40 years and animals would be able to graze under and around the panels between July and October.

The Sunny Oaks park will be the second-biggest solar farm on the Island after Barnfield Solar Farm in the West Wight, which was approved at the same Isle of Wight Council meeting.