Too many solar farms in Wiltshire?
CPRE Wiltshire fears that much of Wiltshire’s landscape will be ruined and ultimately turned into semi-industrial use with proposals for many more solar farm developments that will add to the existing areas already converted to this form of energy generation.
Solar farm applications appear to be dealt with on an ad hoc basis. There doesn’t appear to be an overall plan for the spatial distribution of renewable energy capacity in the county. As more solar farm applications are approved there is an increasing impact on the nature of the county’s landscape, the visual aspects, and in particular the combined effect arising from the local concentration of several solar farms. Making this worse, many sites are including battery storage facilities, which gives them an industrial appearance totally out of keeping with the local countryside.
Outside existing towns, land in Wiltshire is vital for the production of fresh food and other local produce as well as for tree planting and wildlife. All of these, if well managed, will contribute to de-carbonisation and, in time, a reverse of destructive climate change. But Wiltshire Council has no clear strategy for this. As a result, solar farms are springing up on agricultural land across the county.
On the former RAF Wroughton site near Swindon more than 150,000 panels have been installed, taking up 170 acres – about half of the entire site. Near Chippenham another 200 acre development, proposed by Wiltshire-based Eden Renewables, could be up and running by 2022 if the plans are approved by Wiltshire Council. The same company are also preparing an application near Leigh Delamere on a further 200 acres of agricultural land.
This year, villagers in Minety and several adjacent villages have criticised plans for 166,000 solar panels on a 271 acre site. The Minety Solar Farm Action Group has been formed to object to this proposal. They point out that Wiltshire has already made a major contribution to creating renewable energy and in their local area alone four other planning applications have recently been approved. The proposals have not been well advertised and consequently most local people have been shocked when they were told about the plans. They had no idea how big the solar farm would be. It would have a huge environmental impact in this part of north Wiltshire.
Wiltshire Council declared a climate change emergency in February 2019 and in July 2019 the Council pledged to make the county of Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030. CPRE Wiltshire accepts that solar farms can contribute to this aim but strongly believes that too many of them will destroy the character of the county.