A CAMPAIGN group has hit out at plans to build one of the UK’s largest solar farms in Melksham, after it was granted on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate.

Wiltshire Protect, a community-led group which looks into the cumulative effects of solar farms, has said

it is “disappointed and baffled by the decision” to allow for a 80.5-hectare farm at Snarlton Lane, near Sandridge Hill.

Wiltshire Council’s strategic planning committee refused to give developer St John Hughes permission last year, but he challenged their decision and won at a Planning Inspectorate hearing.

In a statement issued by the group, they said: “The Planning Inspector has overruled the wishes of local people, Seend Parish Council and Wiltshire Council’s strategic planning committee.”

“Wiltshire has already reached its 2020 target on renewables, yet now 17 more agricultural fields will be covered for 25 years in 170,000 black glass and metal panels, all surrounded by miles of security fencing and CCTV.”

The proposed solar farm would supply energy to more than 11,000 and as part of the development, Mr Hughes, who runs Sandridge Solar Power Ltd, will put just over £1m into a community pot to benefit residents in and around Melksham.

Around £44,000 will be given every year from the solar farm to the community for the span of its 25 year lifetime.

However Wiltshire Protect have said while they understand that around nine per cent energy bills goes in green taxes, they believe that in Wiltshire, “a large chunk of this ends up disappearing into the pockets of a few developers, who are often based offshore.”

Sandridge Solar will be generating its owners over two million pounds a year in subsidies - plus much more income for energy they will sell to the grid.

Developers are now in talks with the councils which will receive the money including Melksham town council and the parish councils of Melksham Without, Bromham, Seend and Rowde.
Residents will also be able to apply for funding for projects and are being encouraged to contact their parish council with suggestions.

Jonathan Seed, councillor for the village, expressed his concerns at the decision. He said: “Solar farms provoke high emotions and the majority of the residents of Seend and I opposed this solar farm, largely because of the sheer size of it and will be disappointed that it is proceeding.”

Wiltshire Protect has now said that residents who feel concerned about the growing number of solar farms in the area should contact their local MP.