Solarcentury's 13.4MW solar farm in Eynsham, Oxfordshire gets green light from local councilors
Plans to build a multi-million pound solar farm in David Cameron's Whitney constituency took a major step forward this week, after the project received the green light from the local council.
Solarcentury today confirmed it secured planning permission for a 13.4MW solar park in Eynsham, Oxfordshire. Covering 64 acres, the project could provide power to around 4,000 homes once complete.
A spokeswoman for Solarcentury said it now hopes to start construction on the project later this month, with the array scheduled to be completed before March, when the government is due to cut the subsidy level available to solar farms.
She added that the project had recently been sold to an unnamed investor who was expected to announce further details shortly, including the total planned expenditure on the project.
The news comes amid growing concern the government is seeking to rein in the expansion of solar farms on green field sites.
Climate Change Minister Greg Barker wrote to council chief executives last month pledging to "crack down" on inappropriate developments in the countryside, while Communities Secretaries Eric Pickles recently rejected plans for a 24MW solar farm in Suffolk even though it had been recommended by the planning inspector.
But Solarcentury said its latest project had received widespread support among the local community, with those in favour outweighing those against by 11 to one.
"Our day to day experience at Eynsham and elsewhere is a million miles away from the unhelpful stereotyping of solar parks presented by some MPs and parts of the media," said Frans van den Heuvel, chief executive of Solarcentury. "On the contrary, the reality is if you get the site, mitigation and biodiversity right, local people and their representatives will welcome such developments."
Solarcentury said the project had been designed to minimise the impact on the landscape, including plans to plant hedging and trees to obscure the view of the park from residents. The project will also include a wildflower meadow to help support biodiversity in the area.
The news came as the Prime Minister again defended his support for renewable energy, arguing that subsidies to aid the development of clean energy technologies were justified.
In an interview with the Spectator, Cameron insisted he did not "recall" using the phrase "green crap" to refer to the selection of green and social levies on energy bills that the coalition moved to reduce earlier this month.
But he did reiterate his support for fracking, describing shale gas as "a green energy source that can cut energy costs", and insisted that, while renewable energy subsidies should not be retained for longer than they are needed, there is a strong case for supporting "those renewable technologies which otherwise wouldn't get off the ground".
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