THE developers behind a proposed solar farm in Wroughton have expressed disappointment the plan has been called for public hearing but are confident it will be given the go-ahead.
The Science Museum, in partnership with Swindon Commercial Services Limited, want to build a 40MW solar farm – which would be one of the biggest in the country – at the former air field close to the village.
The move has wide public support but groups including North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Natural England and English Heritage objected as they feel it is a decision which needs to be taken at a national level.
Earlier this week, local government minister Eric Pickles announced there would public enquiry into the decision, despite it getting approval from the council.
Local residents and councillors have expressed their frustration at the decision but the SCS has said it is confident of gaining a positive decision.
James Owen, Commercial Director at SCS, said: “We’re disappointed and a bit surprised that a project which has outstanding support from the local community will now be subject to a public inquiry.
“But we look forward to making a very strong case to the planning inspector and the Secretary of State that Wroughton Solar Farm won’t just be good for Swindon but is also very much in the national interest.”
The Science Museum has said the public hearing will be an opportunity to publicly explain the benefits of the proposal.
Matt Moore, head of Wroughton Site for the Science Museum Group, said: “We welcome a closer examination of the issues around solar development on the edge of the AONB.
“We’re confident that the planning inspector will recommend the project goes ahead, because the local and national benefits are so strong.
“The solar farm would provide a secure and reliable income to help the Science Museum continue our work conserving important national collections, and would generate more renewable electricity than is used by all our sites put together, helping reduce our carbon footprint.”
The AONB group said it was important the plan was heard publicly because it was something which would affect for more people than the local residents.
Communications Officer Rose Somerset said: “If this goes ahead it is not just the people of Wroughton who will be affected.
“People come from a long way away to the Ridgeway so it is important this is an issue which is looked at nationally because it could well set a precedent for other major projects.
“It is important to remember that this will be one the biggest solar farms in the country so no-one actually knows what it will look like.
“We are not against renewable energy projects but they need to be given the proper scrutiny.”