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.