SUPPORTERS of a solar park in Wroughton were urged to speak out in favour of the plans ahead of a public inquiry by developers and politicians alike at a drop-in session yesterday.
The Science Museum, in partnership with Swindon Commercial Services, was granted permission to build one of the largest solar farms in the UK on the site of the former airfield outside the village.
The decision was welcomed by local councillors and a majority of villagers.
But following objections from a number of groups, including the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Natural England and English Heritage, the Secretary of State Eric Pickles called for a public inquiry to be held earlier this month to decide whether the farm should go ahead.
The move frustrated residents and led SES and the Science Museum to plan a series of three drop-in events at Ellendune Community Centre, inviting residents to write to the planning inspector in charge of the inquiry and express their support for the solar park.
The site would cover 165 acres and have 160,000 panels, with a capacity of 40MW – enough to power 12,000 average households.
James Owen, commercial director at Swindon Commercial Services, said: “We know that many of the people living in Wroughton were as surprised as we were that the government has called in the solar farm for a public inquiry, as there was such strong community support for the plans.
“We’ve decided to organise these sessions for the community where we’ll be providing information about practical steps they can take to make a difference and have their voices heard.”
While the plans have had very strong support from the local community, with 80 per cent in favour, the AONB and English Heritage objected to the project, which lies on the edge of the North Wessex Downs and would be visible from Barbury Castle.
Villager Amanda Woodhead, 41, who lives just half a mile from the proposed solar park, said: “The visual impact will be minimal.
“I think it’s a no brainer and it’s quite exciting.
“It’s a sustainable energy source and it uses a dilapidated site. We will be able to graze sheep there, have bees and it will go back to agricultural use when it’s done. I’m surprised there’s going to be an inquiry and I’m worried about the cost.”
Fellow resident Ann Gamble, who lives near Kings Farm Wood added: “I think it’s a superb idea. Where do people think that their energy is going to come from?
“It’s not going to do any harm. It’s clean and relatively safe. We know we won’t be able to see it from Kings Farm Wood.”
Her husband Bob added: “It doesn’t harm the land and there is room for animals to graze. We will be writing to the planning inspector to show our support.”
The next drop-in event will take place at Ellendune on Saturday, May 10 from 1pm to 4pm.