Councillors will meet on Monday (March 27) to be shown proposals for Europe’s largest solar farm – big enough to power every home on Oxfordshire.

The 1,400-hectare Botley West Solar Farm will be shown to councillors on West Oxfordshire District Council’s development control committee as part of the proposal’s development consent order (DCO) consultation process. But countryside charity CPRE says it is ‘inconceivable’ that a solar farm so big could be built in the locations proposed.

The scheme, proposed by Photovolt Development Partners (PVDP), is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and therefore too big for the normal local authority planning process.

The 840 MW of electricity it is expected to deliver is equivalent to powering around 330,000 homes.

The proposed scheme stretches across three sites (north, middle and south) spanning Cherwell, West Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils and will connect into a new National Grid sub-station, to be built to the west of Botley. Three quarters of the land proposed for it is in the Green Belt.

PVDP anticipates submission of its application to the Planning Inspectorate in Winter 2023 and hopes for a decision from the Secretary of State by early 2025 with construction starting that Summer.

But spokesperson for CPRE Oxfordshire Julia Benning told Thames Tap: “CPRE Oxfordshire oppose the Botley West site because of the transformational urbanising effect it would have across a huge area, with loss of countryside and productive agricultural land, direct impacts on 15 or more villages and loss of Green Belt.

“Tackling our climate crisis is the priority – but we need our countryside to help us achieve this – for climate mitigation measures (eg tree-planting) and food security, and to help tackle the severe depletion in our natural world.

“It is inconceivable that anyone should consider building Europe’s largest solar farm on productive agricultural land, in the Green Belt, between a World Heritage Site (Blenheim) and one of the world’s most historic cities (Oxford).

“The recently published Pathways to Zero Carbon Oxfordshire Route Map & Action Plan indicates that even extremely ambitious solar targets for Oxfordshire, an aim to provide six per cent of the UK’s solar energy, would still only require a limited amount of Oxfordshire’s land.

“There is no need for allocations in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Green Belt, wildlife and nature recovery areas or productive agricultural land and the priority for solar energy must be rooftops and brownfield sites.”

The group has been campaigning for a county-wide strategy on renewable energy but argues that sites used should be where the least harm is caused.

Ms Benning said Vale of White Horse District Council’s commitment to a Local Area Energy Plan showed local authorities appear to be heading in the right direction.

The Botley West sites which cover 153 fields over the three main sites can be seen here.

CPRE Oxfordshire has produced a map where solar farms are planned throughout the county.

Image: Chittering Solar Farm by N Chadwick, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

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