There’s more uproar over planned solar farm development in Wiltshire following the latest application to go before the council.

Eden Renewables has just lodged its bid to get a 200 acre solar farm between Forest Gate and Derry Hill.

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

Eight parish councils have written a joint letter to the authority demanding action on the proliferation of solar farms in the county.

Bremhill, Dauntsey, Hankerton, Kington St. Michael, Langley Burrell Without, Minety, Oaksey, Yatton Keynell have all signed - saying urgent planning action by way of a policy is required for industrial scale solar and battery energy storage system developments.

The letter says:

“We have observed industrial-scale solar farm and BESS development activity in the north/west part of Wiltshire increase by more than 100% since January 2019.

The undersigned represent just some of the parish councils in this part of Wiltshire who are particularly concerned about these developments, some of whom currently face the prospect of nearly 500 acres of agricultural land being converted into solar farm development. More broadly in the north/west part of Wiltshire, over 1,500 acres of land has recently been targeted.”

Solar farms are springing up on agricultural land across the county. More than 150,000 panels have been installed on half the old RAF Wroughton site near Swindon, taking up 170 acres.

Villagers in Minety have criticised plans for a massive solar farm on a 271 acre site with 166,000 panels.

"The consensus locally is that Eden Renewables have worked hard on a PR campaign to present the Leigh Delamere development as some form of Community Energy Project: lots of planting to mitigate the dramatic changes to the landscape, how it will be good for the environment and how local community organisations will benefit from small financial handouts,” said local campaigner Phillip Davey.

“Some term this ‘greenwash’ but is being exploited by Eden to paint anyone who is in disagreement with the project as ‘climate change deniers’ or NIMBYs.

“The principal concern of locals is the impact it will have on the conversion of farmland to a hard a industrial landscape. It will be the size of 120 football pitches, be surrounded by three miles of security fencing, will host 100,000 solar arrays and 32 battery storage and other containers the size of large shipping containers.

“Many in the area have concluded that this is an inappropriately sited commercial development elopement masquerading as a community driven green project and will fight the application.

Eden have employed Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s sister, Sophy, to promote some of the green credentials of the project.

She has reportedly been visiting residents in the area handing out jars of organic honey - 'no doubt a green form of sweetner’ said one witty local.

Alec Greenwell, Development Manager, Eden Renewables, said: “We have been encouraged by the positive response to our plans from many local people who recognise the urgent need to tackle the Climate Emergency, but we also understand that not everyone likes to see change in the countryside. We encourage as many people as possible to have their say via the Wiltshire council planning portal.

"As well as generating enough renewable energy for over 13,000 homes, we will be planting over a mile of new hedgerows and more than 500 new trees and creating wildflower meadows across the whole site, which will provide fantastic new habitats for wildlife and together result in a biodiversity net gain of 27%.

“Residents will also benefit from a new permissive footpath around the edge of the site, providing a safer and more pleasant alternative route for pedestrians on the A4. The existing footpath will be enhanced to a permissive bridleway, for horses and cycles, which will provide connectivity to Sustrans cycle routes north and south of the site.

"Our community and educational benefit funds will support for other local environmental initiatives, to the tune of over £800,000 for the lifetime of the solar farm. We’re proud to have led the solar industry with our unique education programme which has already seen over 5000 children benefit from site visits to solar farms developed by our team.

“Solar power is a vital part of the UK’s future energy strategy, and with recent rapid advances in technology it is now the cheapest way of generating new power - helping bring down everyone’s bills as well as cutting carbon emissions and boosting biodiversity.”