Battle against plan for huge solar farm in Wroughton
THE price for building the UK’s biggest solar farm in the middle of one of the country’s most beautiful sites on the outskirts of Swindon is too high, say campaigners.
The effect of building 50,000 ground-mounted PV arrays at the former RAF Wroughton will be crippling, say bosses at the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
They were dealt a major blow last week after learning the development has been recommended for approval.
The site would produce 41MW of electricity on 200 acres – an area larger than Chiseldon, or the size of more than 100 football pitches.
AONB director Henry Oliver said he was extremely disappointed to learn Swindon Council’s planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval despite major objections from the AONB, English Heritage and Natural England.
The solar farm, proposed to be in the AONB, could be visible from the Ridgeway National Trail and Barbury Castle Iron Age hill fort.
“It’s going to significantly reduce the beauty of the area and transform it into an industrial landscape,” said Mr Oliver, who has worked at the organisation for four years.
“We are all for renewable energies but they have to be to the right scale in the right places. We already have solar panels in our area but they are small ones people hardly notice.
“We just feel that the benefits do not match what will be lost from the views – the price is too high in this case.”
Andrew Lord, who works as a planning advisor at the AONB, said if the councillors do vote in favour of the application by Swindon Commercial Services Ltd, he will recommend the matter to Greg Baker, Minister of State at the Department of Energy & Climate Change, to reconsider.
“Greg Baker said he takes these big PV solar farms very seriously and he will be watching closely what councils decide,” said Mr Lord.
Councillor John Newman from Wroughton Parish Council said he thought the development could take place somewhere else.
But councillor Ann Richards, who represents Wroughton and Wichelstowe, said she was all for the development. She said: “I’m absolutely delighted it has been recommended for approval. I am fully supportive of new renewable energies taking place in the area. I don’t think it will be too intrusive. There has already been an airfield there.”
James Owen, commercial director at Swindon Commercial Services Ltd, said: “Renewable energy developments should benefit the people who live near them, not just the developers and funders – and the Wroughton project is a great example of how this can be put into practice.
“We’ll be investing over £1m in community projects during the lifetime of the scheme.”
The application will be debated on Tuesday at 6pm at the council’s Civic Offices.
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