Protests, petitions and palpable fury are gathering force in the battle to prevent Chippenham sprawl and ‘the destruction of the countryside.’

More than 150 protesters rallied against plans to build the A350 link road and the 7,500 extra houses to go with it.

Hundreds more have banded together in Derry Hill and Forest Gate - determined to halt plans for a massive 200 acre solar farm.

The site is on land owned by Lord Landsdowne, Charles Petty-Fitzmaurice - who also owns Bowood House.

“If you add the solar farm and the new road development, then whole area will be redefined. It’s no longer villages, green space and woodlands as Chippenham will now merge with Derry Hill and is rapidly encroaching towards Calne,” said solar farm protestor Neil Beedie.

He has led the charge to get hundreds of residents bordering the planned site to sign a petition against it.

“It’s almost as though it’s the wild-west and the developers are doing land-grabs on whatever fields become available,” he added, echoing calls made by the countryside charity CPRE for a county-wide planning strategy.

“The worst thing about the council’s policy for zero carbon emissions is the loss of green space because of these kind of planning decisions.

“The best way for that would be to replant Pewsham Forest, rather than build a solar farm.”

The development, proposed by Wiltshire-based Eden Renewables, could be up and running by 2022 if their plans are approved by Wiltshire Council.

During an online webinar, hosted by company boss Harry Lopes - who married into the Parker-Bowles family, and has a reported personal net worth of around $20m, he explained why he wants to build on greenbelt land and not brownfield sites.

The answer revolved around money.

He said: “This is a question that comes up often and I can only be extremely sympathetic with it. We would love all solar and windfarms to be built on brownfield. But brownfield is expensive ground because it has development value for residential or commercial projects, solar farms cannot come close to competing in terms of purchasing the land or renting the land.

“It’s not economically viable.”

Plans to build the distributor road linking the A350 at the north and south ends of the town were approved by the government last year.