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Solar cash a bonus for council budget

THOUSANDSof pounds paid to the town by a solar energy company will fund extra grass cutting in the park and cemetery, new play equipment and children’s summer activities.

Melksham Town Council has added £28,000 to its budget this year from income generated by a huge solar farm near the town.

The controversial Sandridge Solar Farm, which covers 17 fields to the east of Melksham, was rejected twice by Wiltshire Council but built after government approval and turned on last year. Now, one councillor says, the town is ‘lucky’ to have it.

The owner of the solar farm is expected to pay Melksham Town Council  approximately £34,000 per year for the 25 years it is operational. This year £10,000 will be put towards grass cutting in King George VPark and the cemetery; £10,000 towards replacing park play equipment; £5,000 towards more grant funding; and £3,000 towards children’s ‘sports roadshow’ summer activities. Some cash will also be put into a fund for a future ‘splash pad’ in the park.

Town councillor and chair of the policy and resources committee, Adrienne Westbrook said, “I definitely think this is worth having the solar farm.

“We’re lucky to have something which gives us extra income to improve the community. We have to actually use the money to benefit local people – we can’t add it to other budgets or put it in the reserves – which is the way it should be. There are services Wiltshire Council is cutting back on and this money is allowing us to plug some of those gaps.

“How the town spends the money will be reassessed each year according to what the town needs.”