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Plan for another Broughton Gifford solar farm

ANOTHER renewableenergy company wants to build a solar farm on land near Broughton Gifford and will be holding a consultation in the Village Hall on Thursday 20th August.

British Solar Renewables announced last month that they had submitted an application to Wiltshire Council for permission to build a solar farm on a 40-acre site between Melksham Lane and the B3107.

If approved, the solar farm would be built in  fields across the road from Red House Farm between Melksham and Holt, but would “not necessarily” cover the entire 40-acre site, according to the developers.

Glastonbury-based British Solar Renewables (BSR) did not hold a public consultation before submitting their application, saying that pending changes in Government subsidies meant they had to make the application quickly without consultation.

But BSR will now be holding a consultation to discuss their plans at Broughton Gifford Village Hall on Thursday 20th August from 3pm to 7pm.

The firm is one of a number of solar energy companies who have tried to build in the area. Permission was recently granted to build one of the UK’s biggest solar farms to the east of Melksham, and there have been controversial applications and developments in Norrington Common, Little Chalfield and Broughton Gifford.

But the proposals have come under fire from local people.

Local campaigner Dan Gerber said, “The government has given clear guidance that solar panels should be placed on houses, warehouses and other brownfield sites. Yet, the Wiltshire Council planning officers seem determined to cover every inch of good-quality, agricultural land in Broughton Gifford with solar farms. Five proposals for large-scale solar farms in one village is truly absurd.

“After this new proposal, no-one should doubt that these large-scale, industrial developments on greenfield sites are a greedy and opportunistic grab for subsidies.

“This developer clearly states to councillor Chivers that the new proposal needs to be rushed through – without a public consultation – in order to qualify for the generous subsidies that are paid for in our energy bills.

“For example, the Norrington site will receive approximately £700,000 in government subsidies in the first full 12 months of operation. If we take an ultra-conservative view of the growth in electricity prices (3% a year), that is roughly £26million in government subsidies for the Norrington solar farm alone – and it is unlawful and has no planning permission.

“The Broughton Gifford race for subsidies continues with this new, fifth solar farm proposal. Unfortunately, the developers and our planning officers are running hand-in-hand in this Broughton Gifford subsidy and land-grab race.”

A spokesperson for BSR said, “In normal circumstances we would have undertaken a community consultation event prior to the submission of the application.

“However, given the government’s announcement on Wednesday 22nd July, which unveiled a raft of new measures designed to curb subsidy spending on renewable energy in the UK, BSR had no other option but to proceed with the submission of the application.

“However, the planning application process provides for consultation with the local community and parish councils and we welcome thoughts upon our scheme.”

Wiltshire Protect, who have been campaigning against a number of solar developments in the area, oppose the plans.

Spokesperson Jack Churchill said, “With almost 800 acres of greenfield solar approved within a little over 5 miles of Melksham,  we oppose any more being constructed in this area.

“The village of Broughton Gifford has  been deeply affected by the construction of two industrial sized solar farms.  It is time local government and Wiltshire MPs considered whether covering hundreds of acres of agricultural land in panels is the right solution, or whether incentivising house-builders and business park owners to deploy more energy saving and energy generating devices would be a better option.

“Solar farms tend to ultimately be owned by offshore businesses, so much of our taxes leave the county.  Wiltshire Protect says provide the subsidies for new homes, farm buildings  and industrial parks; this way the people and businesses of Wiltshire will benefit from lower energy bills, whilst not ruining the landscape we all enjoy.”

According to www.renewables-map.co.uk there are currently over 25 solar farms in various stages of planning or operation across Wiltshire.