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£20m solar scheme would be ‘just like a prison camp’
CAMPAIGNERS say a 120-acre solar farm just south of Oxford would look like a prison camp.
Last night about 100 residents from Besselsleigh and surrounding villages turned out in force at an exhibition at Cumnor Village Hall.
They vowed there was nothing that Hive Energy could do to mitigate the impact of its £20m plans, which would include the 70,000 panel farm being surrounded by a six-foot high fence dotted with CCTV cameras.
Besselsleigh resident Jane Cranston said that 18 of the 19 homes in the village had opposed the development, planned for land just off the A420.
Miss Cranston, a wine merchant in Botley, said: “With fences put up all around, it would be like walking into a prison camp.
“It is fundamentally inappropriate. It is in the Oxford green belt and it is huge and it is very close to houses.”
If approved, the power station would generate 18 megawatts of power a year, enough energy for 5,500 homes. And, Hive promised, it would last for only 25 years, after which the land would be returned to green belt.
Director Tim Purbrick said: “We will put fences up all around it as a deterrent to people because it’s a £20m investment and a power station.”
He also said that sheep would be able to graze on the grass beneath the panels, and said if landowner and farmer David Gow did not want to take advantage of the opportunity to do so, “we will find someone else who will”.
Besselsleigh Parish Meeting chairman Chris Brand, 68, said: “We want to preserve the green belt because once this is changed it becomes industrial land.
“We’ll never get it back.”
One of the mitigating features Hive offered to put in the plan was to maintain a pathway which runs through the site and put fencing and high hedges on either side to hide the panels. But Mr Brand said: “It will have a prison camp feel to it.”
Mr Gow said: “We do care what people think. It will look different and that’s why we’re carrying out this consultation.”
If approved by planning authority, Vale of White Horse District Council, Hive said the farm would be the second biggest in Oxfordshire after a collection of developments in Steventon.
The scheme has also been attacked by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). Oxfordshire chairman Brian Wood called the plan “over the top”.
Residents have until November 1 to submit their feedback to Hive by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Then Hive will either submit a planning application or hold more public consultation.
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