Huge solar farm wins permission

Swindon Advertiser: The proposed solar farm site on the edge of Wroughton The proposed solar farm site on the edge of Wroughton

WROUGHTON is poised to lead the way in developing green energy after a planning team approved plans for the UK’s biggest solar farm to be built on the edge of the village.

The application, for 160,000 panels to be built on 170 acres, will now be referred to the National Planning Case-work Unit, and Secretary of State Eric Pickles will have 21 days to review it.

If that all goes well then work on the scheme, which would lie within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, could begin early next year.

The development is a joint project between Swindon Commercial Services Limited and the Science Museum Group.

The museum owns the site and uses it to store 30,000 objects from the reserve national collections.

Matt Moore, head of Wroughton site, Science Museum Group, said: “Solar farms should be sited appropriately and sensitively – this is a great location.

“It’s semi-industrial land, close to a major town.

“It will provide a secure and reliable income to help the Science Museum continue our work conserving the national collections and improving conditions on site.”

Residents will also have the opportunity to invest directly in the solar farm, with a planned minimum investment of just £50, giving them an ownership stake in the project.

James Owen, Commercial Director at Swindon Commercial Services Ltd, said: “This project has had outstanding support from the local community throughout, so we are extremely pleased that Swindon Council has authorised its approval. Residents of Wroughton will benefit from a community fund of £40,000 a year, and it will help put Swindon on the map as a greener place to live and work.”

Councillors on Tuesday night voted in favour of the plans, despite objections from the North Wessex Downs area of outstanding natural beauty, English Heritage and Natural England.

One problem of the development is the fact that the solar farm, which would generate enough electricity for the equivalent of 12,000 homes, could be visible from the Ridgeway National Trail and Barbury Castle Iron Age hill fort.

“I have been up along the national ridge and to Barbury Castle and I have seen the hangars and I don’t consider them to be exactly all that beautiful,” said Councillor Brian Ford, who represents Wroughton and Wichelstowe.

“It will have low impact, it will not attract that much traffic and it is better than having 10,000 homes there.

“If the lights go out in five or six years time there will be enough power generated in Wroughton to make sure our lights stay on.”

Councillor Ann Richards, who represents Wroughton and Wichelstowe, said she was excited Swindon had a chance to lead the way in green energy.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Swindon to make a real contribution to renewable energies,” she said.

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