A PLANNING inquiry into proposals for a solar farm at Wroughton Airfield has finished and the Secretary Of State set to decide the application’s fate.

The project, a joint venture between Swindon Commercial Services and the Science Museum, would see the site house more than 100,000 panels producing enough power for 12,000 homes a year, as well as providing 41MW of renewable power.

The hearing, at the Civic Offices overseen by planning inspector John Braithwaite, concluded yesterday.

He will make recommendations to the Secretary Of State on whether he feels the project can go forward.

The scheme was approved by Swindon Council last December, but the Planning Inspectorate called the public hearing after concerns were raised about the effect it would have on North Wessex Downs and its attractions.

North Wessex Downs Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, English Heritage and Natural England opposed the application.

One of the key arguments was the adverse affect the development could have on the view from Barbury Castle.

Richard Bate, representing North Wessex Downs AONB, said: “We are strongly opposed to the application in principle and practice. The proposal goes to the heart of Government policy for the protection of nationally designated landscapes.

“It would have major adverse impacts on the character of the landscape and views across a substantial area of the AONB.”

Scott Lyness, representing English Heritage, said: “The public benefit does not outweigh the harm or present exceptional circumstances to outweigh the harm of the solar farm.”

It is the first time National England has opposed a solar farm application on landscape issues.

During yesterday’s hearing, objectors argued that the site the would not create local jobs or provide substantial income for the Science Museum.

But the applicants said the 30-year scheme would make them £200,000 a year, which would help restore the 10 hangars where the museum stores 35,000 artefacts.

James Maurici, representing the applicants, said: “The applicants’ evidence is that there would be significant effects upon the amenity and landscape character in the AONB. But the development would not result in a level of affect upon landscape character or amenity within the AONB which would warrant refusal.”

He said the the scheme has received support from the public and the council.