Watch the World Energy TV film made for the public consultation here
The Wroughton Airfield Solar Park can now go ahead after Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, granted planning permission for the project.
The 41 MW solar park is a joint project between Public Power Solutions (formerly Swindon Commercial Services Limited), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Swindon Borough Council, and the Science Museum Group, which owns the former World War 2 airfield and uses it to store over 30,000 objects from the Group’s collections.
Swindon Borough Council authorised planning consent in December 2013, however the project was called in for a Public Inquiry by the Secretary of State in April 2014, and this was held in September 2014.
Eric Pickles’ decision supported the recommendation of the Planning Inspector. The Secretary of State’s judgment states: “The development would make a significant contribution to achieving the UK’s renewable energy target; assist in alleviating climate change; and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He has weighed these substantial planning benefits against the less than substantial harm that would be caused to the environment and the less than substantial harm that would be caused to the significance of Barbury Castle. He has taken account of the fact that the site is brownfield land which cannot be regarded, in its own right, to be of high environmental value and, overall, having regard to the terms of the Framework, concludes that the balance lies in favour of the renewable energy scheme.”
James Owen, Commercial Director, Public Power Solutions, said: “We are very pleased that the Secretary of State has recognised the huge benefits this popular scheme brings to Swindon and the Science Museum Group, and we look forward to getting construction underway as soon as possible.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the very strong support from the local community and politicians across the political spectrum throughout this lengthy process. We’d like to say a huge “Thank You” to everyone who came along to one of our events, took the time to send a letter or helped spread the word.
“We’re now looking forward to the next phase, which will be giving local people the opportunity to invest directly in the solar park. We’ll be letting everyone know more about how they can do that in due course.”
Matt Moore, Head of Wroughton Site, Science Museum Group, said: “It’s been a long wait, but we’re really pleased to have been given the go-ahead. The green electricity generated by the solar farm will have a positive impact for the Science Museum Group, effectively putting more electricity into the grid than we use as an organisation, while providing a secure and reliable income to help us continue our work conserving the extraordinary objects in our collections.”
The solar park is expected to be complete by the autumn and will generate enough renewable electricity to power 12,000 average homes.
A community benefit fund for Wroughton will be set up which will amount to around £40,000 a year, for the next 30 years, to be allocated by the community for local projects. Residents will also have the opportunity to invest directly in the solar farm, with a planned minimum investment of just £50, giving them an ownership stake in the project.