We'll appeal against refusal of 80-hectare Melksham solar farm, say developers

This Is Wiltshire: Members of different groups including Clean Energy Alliance at County Hall, Trowbridge, to support plans for a solar farm near Melksham Members of different groups including Clean Energy Alliance at County Hall, Trowbridge, to support plans for a solar farm near Melksham

The developers behind plans for a major solar farm near Melksham say they will appeal against Wiltshire Council’s decision to reject planning permission.

The 80-hectare site on Sandridge Hill was thrown out by the council’s strategic planning committee on Wednesday after a heated two-hour meeting.

Speaking afterwards St John Hughes, director of Sandridge Solar, the company behind the bid, vowed to fight the decision.

He said: “It is undemocratic. The three local parish councils are fully behind it.

“It fulfils targets towards establishing renewable energy within the county, and it is fully compliant with planning policy. We will certainly appeal it, and confidently.”

Melksham town, Melksham without and Bromham parish councils have all supported the scheme, along with Chippenham MP Duncan Hames. Seend Parish Council was the only local body to oppose it.

Before the meeting the committee visited the site and nearby Seend Ridge, where residents had formed the Wiltshire Protect group to campaign against the site.

Leader Jack Churchill said: “It was the right decision, the size is just enormous.

“We think solar is a useful form of renewable energy, and that it needs to be sited in the best place.

“This highlights that the village of Seend is the most affected community.”

A motion to approve the plans was presented by Independent member Terry Chivers, and was supported by the committee’s three Liberal Democrats, but rejected by the seven Conservative members.

Seend councillor Jonathon Seed spoke against the bid. He said: “I support renewable energy but I do not want to see our Wiltshire countryside littered with solar farms.

“It will be the industrialisation of the countryside, and I believe that is unacceptable.”

Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall, of the Wiltshire Clean Air Alliance, also addressed the committee. She said: “We decide which projects to support on a case-by-case basis, striking a balance between scale and impact, and we think Sandridge is one of the best in Wiltshire.

“The local community was very well-consulted, and will benefit long-term from this.”

In passing the decision committee chairman councillor Andrew Davis said: “The proposed development, by reason of its size and scale, will have an unacceptable visual impact on the landscape.”

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