A SOLAR park is a step closer to being built on farmland near Highworth after plans were accepted by Swindon Council.

Hive Energy Ltd wants to install solar panels capable of generating up to 15mega-watts of electricity, with transformer housings, 2.4metre-high security fencing with cameras, landscaping and other associated works on Pentylands Farm, off Pentylands Lane.

The application site covers an area of about 35.9hectares.

The applicant has said that the plans are in the early stages and it is not possible to confirm the precise photovoltaic panel technology to be used, nor the exact number of panels.

The plans say that the panels would be removed after their 25-year lifetime and the land would revert back to agricultural use.

However, the introduction of the necessary supporting framework and panels themselves would still enable grass and wild flowers to be grown on site.

The plans were recommended for refusal by the town council due to the huge size of the development, which will be overbearingly visible from various parts of Highworth, particularly in the popular view from the Cricklade Cemetery.

Applicant John Livall, who has been farming cattle on the site for 63 years, said: “We are delighted with the decision.

“After 63 years of dairy farming we wanted a change, there was no future in dairy farming for us.”

Councillor Dale Heenan, cabinet member for planning and sustainability, said: “The application has been granted and the council is more than happy to support change of use applications when one of the options is solar energy.

“It coincides with council’s sustainability policy.

“A lot of the feedback we received was actually in favour of the solar farm.”

Residents have also welcomed the planned development and have said that more needs to be done to promote green energy.

Chris Birdsall, of St Michael’s Avenue, opposed the building of 50 homes on land behind his home but has said that the solar farm was a good idea.

He said: “Because it is at the farm it is quite a way away from any homes.

“I don’t know how many people will be able to see it, it is tucked away.

“We do need renewable energy – it has been reported that coal plants are going to be closing, so we need something to replace that energy and a solar farm sounds like a good idea.”