16-12-2013 12:30 PM | News, Property News, Renewable Energy

Solar planning permission 'gives encouraging' lessons for farmers

One of the UK’s largest solar farm project received planning consent last week. The positive public reaction, added to the fact that planning permission was granted even though the site is in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), gives encouraging lessons for farmers and landowners considering large-scale solar parks.

The proposed solar farm development will be 40MW and cover 170 acres at The Science Museum’s Wroughton Airfield site, near Swindon, Wiltshire and falls within the North Wessex Downs AONB.

Hugh Taylor, Director of Energy Assets, the large-scale arm of the EnergyMyWay Group, has been involved in the project since first approaching The Science Museum in April 2012. He said: “The public perception of solar farms, the size of the development and its location in the AONB were always going to be huge challenges to getting planning permission for the project. However, by taking a sensible and sensitive approach to the development these objections have been overcome. And it is an approach which landowners or farmers who are looking to realise the income potential from large scale energy projects on their land can learn and take hope from.”

Whether a landowner has been approached by a developer, or is investigating solar potential themselves, Mr Taylor cites two main factors for landowners to consider to raise the chances of a positive outcome on their own large solar projects.

“The experience and credibility of the developer, planning team and design team are crucial. The project partners that Energy Assets worked with on the scheme took an intelligent and sensitive approach to the community, ecologicial, environmental and visual impacts of the project, which gave the project the best chance of success,” said Mr Taylor. “We are delighted that Energy Assets was able to advise The Science Museum from the outset and engage with a highly effective team of partners on their behalf.”

The partners communicated with the local community from a very early stage. The project includes a community-benefit fund, which could generate around £40,000 a year for local projects, and the ability for residents to invest in the project. “On the day of the planning meeting 96% of local people who were surveyed were in favour of the project. Contrary to the negative perception of many renewable schemes, there is a strong sense of pride within the Wroughton community for having such a significant and positive development on their doorstep,” said Mr Taylor.

The site has Swindon Borough Council’s planning approval. The case will now be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit, where Eric Pickles, the Community Secretary, has 21 days to review the application.


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