How a farmer’s fields could look if 70,000 panel solar plan goes ahead

A smaller solar farm covering about 90 acres at Wissett, Suffolk

A smaller solar farm covering about 90 acres at Wissett, Suffolk

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

PLANS for what could become Oxfordshire’s largest solar panel farm have been unveiled.

Hive Energy has revealed it is hoping to put more than 70,000 solar panels on land along the A420.

The 120 acre plot of land forms part of West Farm and stretches from the A420 near Besselsleigh towards Appleton.

If approved it would generate 18 megawatts of power a year, providing enough energy for 5,500 homes.

The scheme has come under fire from the county branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which says such sites should be built elsewhere.

But landowner David Gow, whose family has farmed the land since the Second World War, said: “The reason I am doing this is partly because I believe solar is a good renewable energy scheme, but there isn’t one overriding motivation.

“One of those motivations is that it has environmental benefits but with all these things there are pros and cons and I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

“Some people say solar panels are ugly but I don’t find that when you compare them with wind turbines.”

Mr Gow, whose family are involved in Farmer Gow’s Activity Farm further down the A420 at Longcot, added: “This scheme will give us the ability to use the land for livestock or as a location for wild flowers. I am quite keen to try to encourage a bee habitat there.”

Plans for a smaller, 74 acre, solar farm at Wadley Hill Farm near Beckley were dropped after South Oxfordshire District Council planning officers told developer ADAS the scheme was unlikely to get planning permission.

Before the West Farm plans emerged, this would have been the biggest in Oxfordshire.

Brian Wood, county CPRE chairman, expressed concern about the number of solar farm schemes being put forward around the county.

He said: “Frankly, it is over the top. I am perfectly happy to have solar panels – but they should be on the top of buildings or factories.

“We are going to end up with more solar farms than we need. There are all sorts of ways of producing energy without having solar farms on agricultural land.”

Plans for a 39-acre solar farm near Bicester which could provide the energy to power 2,146 homes were put forward earlier this month while a the 64-acre scheme at Salutation Farm, in Barnard Gate, near Witney, is before West Oxfordshire District Council.

A 79-acre scheme at Steventon has also be lodged.

Tim Purbrick, of Hive Energy, said the solar farm site near Cumnor is currently used for grazing. And he said that could continue thanks to the design of the scheme.

He said: “The solar panels will be about three feet off the ground at their lowest point, so there is room to graze sheep underneath.”

A public consultation about the plan takes place at Cumnor Village Hall on Monday, from 4.30-8pm.

Comments (10)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

9:54am Wed 16 Oct 13

train passenger says...

I've now officially come to the conclusion that anything the Can't have Progress in Rural England are against is a good thing. We can't have a small number of folks with nothing better to do hold back a whole country for decades.
I've now officially come to the conclusion that anything the Can't have Progress in Rural England are against is a good thing. We can't have a small number of folks with nothing better to do hold back a whole country for decades. train passenger
  • Score: -106

1:14pm Wed 16 Oct 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

train passenger wrote:
I've now officially come to the conclusion that anything the Can't have Progress in Rural England are against is a good thing. We can't have a small number of folks with nothing better to do hold back a whole country for decades.
It's an unelected, unaccountable body that seeks to use the personal wealth of it's members to meddle with the actions of country landowners and of those elected by the majority across the city and county.

Just last week Craig Simmons, chief of the local Greens, said "Why not use degraded land rather than pristine Green Belt?", yet the local CPRE are self-funding legal action concerning the building of student apartments on degraded, former industrial land in the heart of the city centre.
[quote][p][bold]train passenger[/bold] wrote: I've now officially come to the conclusion that anything the Can't have Progress in Rural England are against is a good thing. We can't have a small number of folks with nothing better to do hold back a whole country for decades.[/p][/quote]It's an unelected, unaccountable body that seeks to use the personal wealth of it's members to meddle with the actions of country landowners and of those elected by the majority across the city and county. Just last week Craig Simmons, chief of the local Greens, said "Why not use degraded land rather than pristine Green Belt?", yet the local CPRE are self-funding legal action concerning the building of student apartments on degraded, former industrial land in the heart of the city centre. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 3

3:50pm Wed 16 Oct 13

Eric Fish says...

A great idea, solar panels are silent, efficient and unobtrusive, they are also no higher than a hedge so what's the problem.
As ever, a bunch of small minded people who will complain and hold back any progress, good ideas or expressions of individuality.
A great idea, solar panels are silent, efficient and unobtrusive, they are also no higher than a hedge so what's the problem. As ever, a bunch of small minded people who will complain and hold back any progress, good ideas or expressions of individuality. Eric Fish
  • Score: 2

4:36pm Wed 16 Oct 13

AndyontheS3 says...

Eric Fish wrote:
A great idea, solar panels are silent, efficient and unobtrusive, they are also no higher than a hedge so what's the problem.
As ever, a bunch of small minded people who will complain and hold back any progress, good ideas or expressions of individuality.
You are right Eric, and if we could cover 250% of our country in solar power panels then we could supply enough power for 80% of the country for a couple of months of the year. Solar Power, No Thanks :-(
[quote][p][bold]Eric Fish[/bold] wrote: A great idea, solar panels are silent, efficient and unobtrusive, they are also no higher than a hedge so what's the problem. As ever, a bunch of small minded people who will complain and hold back any progress, good ideas or expressions of individuality.[/p][/quote]You are right Eric, and if we could cover 250% of our country in solar power panels then we could supply enough power for 80% of the country for a couple of months of the year. Solar Power, No Thanks :-( AndyontheS3
  • Score: -142

8:42pm Thu 17 Oct 13

bobthebulder says...

This is a great idea. The Oxford Times are talking complete balderdash that this will be the largest solar farm in Oxfordshire. We need green energy to to offset for the polluting power stations.

What a great idea using this area for sheep and I have seen plenty of solar farms where sheep graze perfectly normally underneath. Well done Mr Gow. cPRE suggest you concentrate on real things that effect the rural economy.

I for one would love to see this solar farm built.
This is a great idea. The Oxford Times are talking complete balderdash that this will be the largest solar farm in Oxfordshire. We need green energy to to offset for the polluting power stations. What a great idea using this area for sheep and I have seen plenty of solar farms where sheep graze perfectly normally underneath. Well done Mr Gow. cPRE suggest you concentrate on real things that effect the rural economy. I for one would love to see this solar farm built. bobthebulder
  • Score: 3

8:49pm Thu 17 Oct 13

Noah's Ark says...

I would love to see a solar farm so close to Oxford. What a great idea especially one with bees and sheep still grazing

I am totally fed up with Besseleigh Parish Council circulating villagers as if we are all against this solar farm. Fact is the silent majority would like to see this built. We need to do our bit to tackle energy shortages and to look after the youngsters. Besseleigh Parish Council and the CPRE are just selfish. The countryside has always been a living environment. We have been prodcing energy in the countryside for years with wood. Lets get this built. The majority of us also want to see it built.
I would love to see a solar farm so close to Oxford. What a great idea especially one with bees and sheep still grazing I am totally fed up with Besseleigh Parish Council circulating villagers as if we are all against this solar farm. Fact is the silent majority would like to see this built. We need to do our bit to tackle energy shortages and to look after the youngsters. Besseleigh Parish Council and the CPRE are just selfish. The countryside has always been a living environment. We have been prodcing energy in the countryside for years with wood. Lets get this built. The majority of us also want to see it built. Noah's Ark
  • Score: 2

8:54pm Thu 17 Oct 13

birdwatcher1 says...

What a great idea. I for one fully support this solar farm.
What a great idea. I for one fully support this solar farm. birdwatcher1
  • Score: 2

10:45pm Fri 18 Oct 13

Grazing bee says...

In response to Noah's Ark's comments, I wasn't aware that bees grazed - isn't the countryside an amazing place! However, it might not be such a wonderful place for much longer. If a massive development such as this - which is not only in our green-belt, but also borders two sides of a small village - is allowed to go ahead, what possible justification would a planning committee have for rejecting any other solar farm planning application? Let's not be in any doubt that this that this will happen if we allow this development.

Why? Because this is not about farmers wanting to "do their bit" for the environment, it's about money. I don't have a problem with making money, but please let's be honest about the motives. Solar farms come with large government subsidies (taxpayer funded) and farmers can make far more money hosting solar farms on their land than they can by more traditional farming.

If this would solve our energy problems then at least there would be an argument in favour of solar farms. However, as AndyontheS3 points out, this isn't the case. A single nuclear power station (zero carbon emissions) can provide power for over 2,000,000 homes compared to 170 acres of land covered by solar panels powering just 5,500 homes. The UK already imports around 40% of its food (compared to around 5% of its electricity) and covering our farmland with solar panels (even if sheep and bees can graze below them) will only increase our dependency on other countries for our food which must surely be a higher need than electricity.
In response to Noah's Ark's comments, I wasn't aware that bees grazed - isn't the countryside an amazing place! However, it might not be such a wonderful place for much longer. If a massive development such as this - which is not only in our green-belt, but also borders two sides of a small village - is allowed to go ahead, what possible justification would a planning committee have for rejecting any other solar farm planning application? Let's not be in any doubt that this that this will happen if we allow this development. Why? Because this is not about farmers wanting to "do their bit" for the environment, it's about money. I don't have a problem with making money, but please let's be honest about the motives. Solar farms come with large government subsidies (taxpayer funded) and farmers can make far more money hosting solar farms on their land than they can by more traditional farming. If this would solve our energy problems then at least there would be an argument in favour of solar farms. However, as AndyontheS3 points out, this isn't the case. A single nuclear power station (zero carbon emissions) can provide power for over 2,000,000 homes compared to 170 acres of land covered by solar panels powering just 5,500 homes. The UK already imports around 40% of its food (compared to around 5% of its electricity) and covering our farmland with solar panels (even if sheep and bees can graze below them) will only increase our dependency on other countries for our food which must surely be a higher need than electricity. Grazing bee
  • Score: 2

11:46pm Fri 18 Oct 13

LetsBeRational says...

Nuclear power stations, wind farms, solar farms. Whatever the solution the answer is the same. "Great idea, it's what we need, just not in my back yard."

Everyone seems to want a cleaner, sustainable energy source as long as they are not affected by its placement
Nuclear power stations, wind farms, solar farms. Whatever the solution the answer is the same. "Great idea, it's what we need, just not in my back yard." Everyone seems to want a cleaner, sustainable energy source as long as they are not affected by its placement LetsBeRational
  • Score: 2

12:09pm Sun 20 Oct 13

oxman says...

Seeing as everyone is against this, I think we should have a nuclear power plant in the cotswolds, or maybe on Otmoor.
Seeing as everyone is against this, I think we should have a nuclear power plant in the cotswolds, or maybe on Otmoor. oxman
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree