SOLAR barriers could soon become a common sight on Swindon’s roads if a business plan being drawn up concludes they are a benefit to the town.
It has been proposed that a solar sound barrier should be constructed along the A419 as a way of generating renewable energy and reducing the impact of noise created by traffic along the A419.
If this is given the thumbs up then other schemes around the town may also be looked at. One other possible area being considered is along the M4 between junctions 15 and 16, most notably close to the Wichelstowe development.
A case over whether it is a viable scheme or not is being put together, the results of which are expected in around three months time.
It is understood that Honda is involved in the process, which includes looking at the parts of the road where the barrier will be suitable. The length of road being examined stretches from the Blunsdon exit down to junction 15.
The overall cost of the scheme is estimated at between £1m and £2m, which would be recouped by selling the power generated. Both sides of the A419 would be covered, with the arrays on the west carriage way facing upwards to get more of the sun.
Talks are also being carried out with the Highways Agency as some of the land is in its control.
Other factors being considered is access to the solar arrays for maintenance, highway safety and general visual impact.
Coun Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Dorcan) said: “Work is well under way to look at the design and cost of the solar sound barrier. If it is found to be a viable scheme then we can use it as a model for other roads in the town. The M4 is one road we are looking at.”
A motion is set to go before tomorrow night’s planning committee which, if passed, could see planning requirements relaxed to make it much easier to build roadside solar arrays.
Council officers would consider introducing a town-wide Local Development Order, which would mean that schemes would not have to go through a normal planning application.
Instead, as long as it was subject to certain conditions, the scheme would pass almost straight away.
Coun Heenan said: “If the solar barriers are seen to be workable then they will also be subject to consultation. They will have the combined effect of reducing the noise for residents, not just in the Covingham area but all along the A419, with the economic benefit that solar power brings.”