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Massive solar farm planned near Barton
PLANS for a huge solar farm on the outskirts of Oxford would destroy iconic views of the city, it was warned last night.
Opponents said proposals for 50,688 solar panels on farmland just outside Barton would be a “blot on the landscape”.
However, the farmer who owns the land next to Bayswater Road has denied the claim.
Robert Brooks told the Oxford Mail at one point he was considering wind turbines for the site, but felt solar was the better option.
He said: “I think it is a good thing for the farm. “It is a good thing financially with my commercial hat on and it is the way a lot of farms are going.
“I looked at wind turbines but I’m not really a fan of them because they really do interfere. “Having 10 foot high panels are not too much of a blight.France there are a lot of them and they are not bad. It’s a move forwards, and it’s green.”
If it gets the go ahead, the solar farm would be the largest in the county, would feed into the national grid and provide power for around 3,000 homes.
It is believed the project could see an area the size of 30 football pitches taken up on the green belt between Barton and Beckley.
However, last night there was conflicting information on the exact size. A document supplied to South Oxfordshire District Council put it at 74.5 hectares, but the farmer stated it is 74.5 acres.
Chairman of Beckley and Stowood parish council David Scott said: “The plans are huge, it would be a blot on the landscape.
“Oxford is uniquely beautiful and I’m certain it would be a massive eyesore. “I can’t imagine anyone would be particularly supportive of the plans. “You will be able to see it from vantage points around Oxford.”
Westmill Solar near Watchfield is believed to be the only solar farm in Oxfordshire at the moment.
It is only 12 hectares in comparison and has 21,000 solar panels.
The panels at Wadley Hill Farm are being proposed by ADAS which claims to be the country’s largest environmental consultancy company working for both the Government and commercial companies.
With its HQ in Wolverhampton it has more than 700 staff working out of 21 offices. It also has research sites in Ireland.
It would not be drawn on revealing details about the project.
It has applied to the district council for a pre-application opinion from planners.
The council will advise it of its opinion by the end of this month before a formal planning application is submitted.
However, ADAS did confirm the solar farm would be expected to stay for 35 years until the end of its operational life.
A public footpath crosses the field, which the plans show will still be accessible.
A Roman road also runs through the middle of the field but would not be covered in panels under the plan.
Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in Oxfordshire spokesman Michael Tyce also said he opposed the plans.
He said: “One of the things about Oxford is that it is surrounded by hills so even if the panels aren’t very high and could be disguised by bushes and trees it would be seen from all around the Oxfordshire countryside from higher ground.
“There are two other main problems as far as I can see.
“There is the problem of the green belt, which is there to preserve the openness of the countryside, and you are not doing this when you cover it in panels.
“And secondly it is industrialisation of the area. However you try to dress this up, it is a power station. A whole scale industrial project like this is unacceptable.”
THE solar panels would each measure 165cm in length, 99.2cm in width, and would be 4cm in depth.
They would be mounted at ground level on frames at a 25 degree tilt from the ground.
Westmill Solar near Watchfield produces 4.8GWh per year in energy which supplies the average annual electricity needed by 1,500 homes.
Based on a comparative estimate the solar farm proposed near Beckley may create energy for more than 3,000 homes.
The energy produced at the proposed new site is understood to feed into the national grid, but ADAS would not confirm the plans. It would then be distributed to homes across the UK.
There is a price for the electricity itself bought and sold by companies but this price changes constantly. It is more expensive during the winter and overnight.
The Government also subsidises solar power projects, as they do all energy projects such as Didcot Power Station.
This subsidy is called the feed in tariff (FIT).