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Save One Tree Hill from solar farm development

26th June 2024

On Friday 28th June, over 100 people rallied from all four corners of One Tree Hill to help save this iconic landmark, named after the original oak that was planted by John Hunt-Grubbe in 1815 to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo.

Potterne Solar Action Group (PSAG) couldn’t have picked a better evening to bring the community together to bang a drum for One Tree Hill, now threatened by the development of a 70-acre solar farm. Supporters gathered with their homemade placards and banners along the open footpaths and bridleways which crisscross the landscape, surrounded by golden fields of barley. This spot has been a meeting place for generations and is a lifeline for many, bringing so many health benefits since the pandemic to daily walkers, cyclists, and horse riders from surrounding villages and Devizes. The familiar landmark tree which sits on the horizon can be seen from miles away, including Etchilhampton Hill in the North Wessex Downs AONB.

Steve Holt, spokesperson for the group, said, “Firstly it was just a coming together of people – of all age groups, all walks of life, all had walked 25 minutes uphill from whichever direction to just be there and be counted. Because they are not having their hill taken from them. There, overlooking beautiful views, in the sunshine, you could see for miles – 360 degrees in all directions – and silence all around, except for people talking to each other, and the one thing on everybody’s lips was ‘what a ludicrous place for a solar farm.’”

Less than a mile from One Tree Hill (or land east of Blounts Court Farm), a huge solar plan of 200 acres at Potterne Park Farm is currently under consultation by Wiltshire Local Planning Authority. In response to this double whammy, PSAG launched a petition earlier this year to stop the industrialisation of Wiltshire’s historic and valued countryside and to safeguard 270 acres of productive arable land from solar development on these two sites. To date the petition has gained 1,055 signatures.

Steve Holt said, “We already have six solar farms within a five-mile radius of Potterne. We are hopeful that the tide is turning at Wiltshire Council whose 2030 targets for solar renewable energy have already been exceeded. At their meeting of 21st May, we made a statement in support of a motion raised by Cllrs Alford & Botterill calling upon the government to ensure solar development is more evenly spread across the UK. The motion also stressed the importance of protecting agricultural land, our communities, and our rural way of life. The motion was passed by 74 votes to 2.

The developers have acknowledged the significance of One Tree Hill to the local community and propose to erect an information board and bench within the 3m-tall fence that will imprison the tree, effectively blocking the open views currently enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike.

Robert Hunt-Grubbe of Potterne Parish Council, said, “Potterne and Devizes are now so close that One Tree Hill is the only remaining open space separating them. It must be kept free of development. More Parish Council time has been spent fighting to preserve this rural gap than on any other planning issue since the Potterne Neighbourhood Development Plan was approved by Wiltshire Council. Looking to the past, reporter John Leech highlighted the importance of this hill in the Wiltshire Gazette of 11th August 1977, describing the tree at its summit as one of Wiltshire’s great landmarks, standing to remind us of one of the most significant events that has shaped the history of the world, the Battle of Waterloo. Planted by John Hunt-Grubbe, then in his youth but later an army General, on a plot that has never been sold by the family, the tree and its successors are a reminder that peace in this world is never guaranteed. To give power to its important message for us all in these uncertain times, this hill must retain its majestic isolation.”

PSAG invited election candidates from the three major political parties to its #SaveOneTreeHill rally so they could meet with the local community on the ground and understand the value of this historic agricultural landscape. Both solar farm proposals in Potterne go against NPPF guidelines to protect valued landscapes and sites of biodiversity, and to recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. They disregard Wiltshire Core Strategy on the careful stewardship of our environmental assets so that growth does not erode the very qualities that make Wiltshire so attractive in the first place. And they ignore the government’s commitment to food security which relies on strong domestic production, including 74% of food which we can grow or rear in the UK for all or part of the year.

A solar farm can be relocated to a more suitable, non-imposing location whereas One Tree Hill cannot. Once lost, local inhabitants will never get it back, not after 40 years as the developers claim. Their children and grandchildren will no doubt inherit a brownfield site and quite possibly, None Tree Hill.

PSAG supports renewable energy. PSAG supports CPRE’s solar rooftop revolution.

One Tree Hill is the wrong place for solar!

Aerial view of protestors at the proposed solar farm site at One Tree Hill, Potterne
One Tree Hill protest 28 Jun 2024