CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a photovoltaic solar farm the size of 100 football pitches on the edge of Wroughton have been backed by the MP for south Swindon Robert Buckland.

If approved, this will be the largest facility of its kind in the UK.

It will consist of 160,000 panels covering an area of 168 acres on part of the former RAF airfield.

The solar farm, proposed to be inside North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, would be visible from the Ridgeway National Trail and Barbury Castle Iron Age hill fort.

Under the plans, set to go before a planning committee on November 12, the farm will have the capacity to generate enough power for about 12,000 households.

A number of groups have come out in opposition including Natural England, English Heritage and the North Wessex Downs AONB.

Despite this, Mr Buckland said he will support the proposals as it will help the community in many ways.

He said: “After looking at all the arguments on both sides, I am supporting this proposal.

“It will truly put Swindon on the map. It will bring huge benefits for the community, the economy and the environment.

“Solar power generation is a vital part of the UK’s energy mix, and the fact that Swindon will host this important project is something of which the whole borough can be proud.”

He added the majority of the community backed the scheme, which would bring a lot of money to the area.

“Crucially, a community benefit fund will be set up for Wroughton amounting to about £42,000 a year for 30 years to be spent on community projects, with funding allocated by the community,” said Mr Buckland.

“A public consultation was held in January, with almost 80 per cent of people saying they supported the plans.”

He said the site will only affect very broad views from high vantage points in the AONB and the area already has a light-industrial site which houses several very large aircraft hangars and old concrete runways.

In September the AONB Unit wrote to ask the Secretary Of State to intervene if the plan gets the go-ahead from Swindon Council.

It wants the unprecedented application to be called in due to its size, location in an AONB against national policy and Swindon Council’s own planning policy.