SWINDON is set to become one of the leading towns in the UK for renewable energy as plans due to go before the planning committee next week could see a big increase in solar power and hydrogen power.

The proposal will see the relaxation of planning controls making it easier for homes and businesses to install panels, and garages will be able to convert hydrogen power without requiring planning permission, making Swindon a leader in the emerging market.

There will also be a move which could pave the way for an increase in solar farms on greenfield sites around the town.

If passed Swindon Council will launch a ‘Call to Sites’, which will give local businesses, landowners and communities an opportunity to submit potential sites for the council to consider.

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Taxis filling up at Swindon’s hydrogen station in 2012

The aim is to provide communities with local sources of energy, a move which has won praise in the industry, as the council seek to have 200MW of energy from renewable sources.

Guy Madgwick, the head of UK solar operations at Eneco, who are behind Sevor Farm, said he believes this is the direction the energy market will take in the coming years.

He said: “Increasingly there is a move towards local sources of energy for local communities. This is something we will see more and more of over the next 50 to 100 years and those who get in early will get the most from it.

“This is a positive movement from Swindon. Solar power has advanced very quickly in the last few years and now has a very minimal impact on the environment, other than the visual impact when they are there.

“It also has a double benefit for farmers in that they receive rent for use of their land and it can still be used for grazing animals.”

The move will also have economic benefits for the local area said Angela Livell, who runs the soon-to-open solar farm at Pentylands, near Highworth.

She said: “There is some attitude from some people but I think this is a positive move for the area. Solar farms bring in lots of jobs.

“We will be providing about 80 local jobs to run and manage the farm. They will then use the nearby hotels and cafes so there is a lot to be gained from the move.”

Meanwhile, Honda is pioneering the hydrogen fuel cell for cars and has a re-fueling site at the factory in South Marston.

Hydrogen power is believed to be an emerging market and the council has made it a priority for Swindon to become the centre for this.

Coun Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Dorcan), the cabinet member for strategic planning, said: “Swindon new’s approach will use the same approach to tackle energy.

“It is probably a UK first, but it is simple and the right thing to do.”