Villagers have criticised plans for a massive solar farm in north Wiltshire.

A 271-acre site with 166,000 panels could be set up near a substation in Minety. But an action group is arguing that the environmental damage would outweigh its benefits.

Members say the county has already made a major contribution to creating renewable energy and that four other planning applications around the substation have already been approved.

Minety Solar Farm Action Group was formed to draw attention to the latest proposal.

Over two weekends, the group collected 130 signatures from neighbours in nearby villages to protest the plans by JBM Solar Projects. So far, 60 objections, including one from the Council for the Preservation of Rural England charity have been sent to Wiltshire Council.

Patrick Crawford from Oaksey said: “People were shocked when we told them about it, they either had no idea it was happening or realised how big it will be.

“The environmental impact would be huge. There are endangered and protected species like curlews, fritillary butterflies and roe deer, but there will be no connectivity between habitats because wildlife corridors will be destroyed.

“There are two sites of scientific interest on the edge of the scheme, you’re not normally allowed to build near them.

“Solar farms should be in brownfield land to avoid these problems. There are zero community benefits. There’s a footpath where people walk their dogs which will be fenced and surrounded by solar panels.

“The planning application says it’s only temporary but once the damage is done to the area, it won’t be the same and cannot return to its former state.”

Piers Johansen from Hankerton pointed out that Wiltshire already has the second-highest amount of existing and proposed battery storage and large solar farm capacity out of all UK counties.

A letter to Wiltshire Council from the group said: “The proposal represents an ill-conceived attempt to convert greenfield, agricultural land of recognised character into a commercial-scale solar farm against the clear wishes of many in the community and contrary to national and local policies and guidelines.

“We are not opposed to the principle of renewable energy. We do not seek to shirk the individual and collective responsibility to help our country meet its climate change targets. We do, however, see the proposal for what it is: a commercial venture veiled under the guise of the green agenda pursuing purely private profit, launched at the height of lockdown and national uncertainty, with no meaningful community engagement and no community benefit.

“At 910 MW, Wiltshire’s existing and proposed capacity is second only to Kent and more than double that of Cambridgeshire, the next highest county on that basis.

“We note and reiterate CPRE’s comment that ‘there would be no economic, social, or technical advantage to the local community from this development’.”

A Wiltshire Council spokeswoman said: “The planning application will be considered by the council in due course and the points that have raised will be taken into account.”

A date for when it will be discussed at a planning committee meeting has not yet been set.

The applicant wants a 40-year lifespan for the development and says it represents a "considerable opportunity for landscape and biodiversity mitigation and enhancement."