Bid for 'wildlife-friendly' 55-acre solar farm at Castle Combe Race Circuit

This Is Wiltshire: A solar farm similar to the one proposed for the centre of Castle Combe Race Circuit A solar farm similar to the one proposed for the centre of Castle Combe Race Circuit

Plans are to be submitted for a huge solar farm in the centre of Castle Combe Race Circuit.

But the firms behind it say around 97 per cent of the 55-acre solar farm site would remain undeveloped, the land around and beneath the panels being sown with a mixed species grass mix to create a meadow, attracting birds and insects.  

Solar firm Solafields and Vogt Solar has submitted proposals to Wiltshire Council for the development of a 12MW solar farm on part of the land in the centre of the track.

It says the farm could produce enough power for around 4,000 UK homes and save over 5,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

A public exhibition was held at the circuit in May for residents, stakeholders and circuit employees to view the plans.

Around 600 people were invited to the exhibition with 47 people attending and 13 completing consultation questionnaires. The results of the questionnaires showed that 11 people were in support of the plans.

The main issues raised at the exhibition were the potential visual impact of the solar farm, the importance of improved biodiversity on site, support for the proposed community benefit fund, consideration for skylarks, and construction traffic.

Mark Candlish, of Solafields, said: “The exhibition was a good opportunity to listen to peoples’ views and respond to any concerns.

"In terms of visual impact, this site is particularly well suited to a solar farm given the land in the middle of the race circuit is very well screened thanks to the bund that surrounds the track and the protective fencing. Lots of people recognised this.

“We completely agree with those people who felt biodiversity must be improved on the solar farm site.

"Solar farms can dramatically increase the number and variety of species using a site. The meadow we plant will help this and we will be installing log piles for insects and boxes for birds.

“There was particular interest in skylarks too – measures to create suitable habitats and protect skylarks will be included, such as buffers, skylark plots and the sowing of specific grass seed mixes.”

A Construction Traffic Management Plan will be put in place to ensure any disruption during the build of the solar farm is kept to a minimum. This plan will set out the route and traffic management procedures for delivery and construction vehicles, and local stakeholders and residents will be contacted when construction is due to commence.

A community benefit fund will be set up, offering at least £50,000 over the first five years of the solar farm to support local renewable energy, energy efficiency or other projects.

Mr Candlish said: “We think it’s important that the local community shares in the benefits of the solar farm. We are keen to hear from any local groups or projects needing support and we’ll be discussing the fund with the parish councils too.”

The solar farm would take around 16 weeks to build, with access to the site being from the B4039. It will be temporary - after 30 years the fields would be returned to existing use and the solar panels removed and recycled.

A decision is expected from Wiltshire Council in the autumn. The planning application can be viewed and comments submitted via the council’s website using reference 14/06821/FUL.

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