A crowd of protesters gathered outside Trowbridge County Hall as Wiltshire Council voted to call upon the government to ensure solar developments are “more evenly spread across the UK”.

The motion was submitted by Conservative Councillors Phil Alford and Nick Botterill and stated that the council is “increasingly concerned at the concentration of solar farms, battery storage and associated infrastructure in Wiltshire”.

As the motion was set to be discussed at the full council meeting on Tuesday, May 5, protesters were campaigning against Lime Down Solar Park, a development that would see solar panels built on 2,000 acres of farmland to the north of the M4, southwest of Malmesbury.

After making their voices heard outside, dozens of protesters then attended the meeting to watch councillors cast their votes.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: "Stop Lime Down" protestors attended the meeting.

The motion itself notes that some villages in Wiltshire are now “completely surrounded” by solar farms, representing a “significant cumulative impact” and “industrialisation of the countryside”.

After a lively debate, 75 councillors voted for the motion, two voted against, whilst six abstained.

This means that Wiltshire Council will call upon the Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Micheal Gove, to define more closely what is meant by “cumulative impact” regarding solar farms and to take clear steps to ensure that solar developments are more “evenly spread” across the country.

During the debate, Island Green Power’s plans for Lime Down Solar Park were often referenced.

Cllr Botterill said: “If you want to get an idea of what thirteen square miles looks like, the built-up area of Chippenham is about four to five square miles.

“That’s the size we are talking about with Lime Down, it is truly titanic.”

Members of the public also spoke during the meeting, including representatives of CPRE, Potterne, and Whitley, a village which would accommodate around 200 battery storage units for Lime Down.

Among them was Sir Michael Pitt, a Deputy Lieutenant for Wiltshire who used to be the chair of the Infrastructure Planning Commission and the chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate.

He said: “The developments of Lime Down would be a highly damaging assault on the county’s landscape and way of life.”

Whilst stating that he was “absolutely not opposed to solar power”, the leader of Wiltshire Council, Richard Clewer, declared that he “entirely endorsed” the motion.

He said: “We face the very real risk of entire villages being surrounded by a new industrialised rural landscape of solar farms.

“It will change the nature of our villages beyond comprehension.

“It will erode communities and at the same time make us more reliant on imported food from places like Russia.

“That cumulative impact is really critical, we’ve got to spread solar around.”

Speaking in support of solar farms, Cllr Nick Murry said: “We’re in a climate crisis, which, if we don’t address urgently, will severely adversely impact our future and the prosperity and security of future generations.”

He added: “The contention that solar farms jeopardise the UK’s food security is simply incorrect.

“Solar energy generation supports our farmers and our local food supply, not only through cheaper energy but by providing farmers with opportunities for diversification and additional income.”   

A few other councillors expressed concerns over the “demonising language” used regarding renewable energy during the debate and the fact that solar panels on roofs would not be enough.

However, Cllr Botterill concluded: “Bring on solar, let’s have it, but in the right places.

“That’s what this is all about.”

When contacted for comment, Island Green Power said: "We recognise the importance of carefully balancing renewable energy initiatives with the need to preserve the aesthetic and environmental integrity of the areas where we operate.

"Our aim has always been to design Lime Down Solar Park in a way that minimises negative impacts and maximises positive impacts on the local environment and local community as far as is possible."