SWINDON has taken the next step to becoming one of the easiest places in the UK to build solar farms, as the council looks to take advantage of a legislation change.

A ‘call for sites’ has been launched, giving developers, land owners and communities the opportunity to nominate areas of land which they feel would be suitable for a solar farm or solar array.

If they are then deemed acceptable, they will come under a Local Development Order (LDO), meaning they would automatically be granted planning permission.

Most notably, the move would also pave the way for solar sound barriers to be constructed along parts of the A419 and the M4, near Wichelstowe.

The innovative scheme would allow power to be generated while also providing sound protection for the houses near the busy roads.

Any person or organisation which wants to nominate a site has until January 12 to do so and there will be a full consultation with the public before anywhere is formally accepted.

The council has set itself the target of being able to produce 100MW of renewable energy. The plans are supported by all parties.

Coun Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Dorcan), the cabinet member for sustainable planning, said: “There is cross-party political support for generating sufficient renewable energy locally to power every single home by 2020, and a new council initiative could lead to planning permission being granted for the A419 and M4 Solar Sound Barriers and approve new sites for solar farms.

“I am a big champion for using LDOs to cut the red tape and bureaucracy involved in the planning process, and the council has successfully used them to help make Swindon an attractive place to invest in, and encourage new jobs. Companies like BMW and Honda are among the beneficiaries.

“By encouraging renewable energy developers to show their hand in a ‘call for sites’, they will know upfront if a potential site is acceptable, or not. If acceptable they will have more certainty, while those classed as inappropriate will be excluded and considered non-starters.

“The A419 and M4 Solar Sound Barriers have been agreed in principle by Swindon Council, and if approved by the cross-political party planning committee, then work can start almost immediately.

“This will give the whole campaign a big jolt of momentum.”

To submit potential sites, visit www.swindon.gov.uk/ldo, email ddewart@swindon.gov.uk, or write to The Planning Service, Swindon Borough Council, Wat Tyler House, Beckhampton Street, Swindon SN1 2JH, by January 12, 2015.