A decision on a controversial 80-hectare solar farm on the edge of Melksham has been delayed to allow councillors to visit the site.

Wiltshire Council’s Strategic Planning Committee met on today to decide whether to approve an application for a solar installation south of the A3102, which would generate enough electricity to power the whole town.

However the plans have attracted criticism from residents in nearby Seend, who believe it will affect their views of the surrounding countryside.

Following recent advice by government planning minister Nick Boles that visual impact should be considered when approving solar sites, committee chair Andrew Davis called for a visit to the village to assess the potential impact.

He said: “I am very concerned that we could be having more information before us before we take the decision. This is an opportune moment to go on a site visit.”

At the meeting Seend resident Sue McCulloch spoke out against the plan. She said: “I moved to Seend 12 years ago and fell in love with the landscape.

“This is one reason why we are discussing the possibility of leaving Seend, a decision my husband and I thought we would never have.”

Jack Churchill, of the Seend-based protest group Wiltshire Protect also criticised the council for its lack of a solar farm strategy. 

“Unlike other local authorities in the south west, Wiltshire does not currently provide guidance on the landscape to accept large-scale solar developments”, he said.

“Surely this is all very backwards, and will result in a bad outcome for people who live and come to visit Wiltshire.”

Farmer Roger Keen, who owns the land where the site will be built, defended the plan.

He said: “Farming has always been a difficult business, and the guaranteed income provided by this form of diversification provides a basis for the future of the farm, and I hope it will allow my family to continue farming on Sandridge, as we have done for the last 80 years.”

The committee will visit Seend to judge the impact on the views on April 23, before they make their final decision.