Appeal against decision on huge Melksham solar farm confirmed by developers

Wiltshire Times: St John Hughes, director of Sandridge Solar Power St John Hughes, director of Sandridge Solar Power

The would-be developers of a huge solar park near Melksham have confirmed they are to appeal against the decision to refuse planning permission.

Wiltshire Council’s strategic planning committee voted against the 80-hectare site on Sandridge Hill on April 16.

Today St John Hughes, director of Sandridge Solar Power, today confirmed his comment after the meeting that the firm would be appealing.

Mr Hughes said: "We are very disappointed with the decision. It is a robust application that fulfils planning policy and guidelines, and an established need for more renewables in the county.

"The public, local parish councils and town council are strongly in favour of it, and the planning officer has recommended approval, so naturally we will be appealing the decision.

"The substantial positive benefits for the county and the UK outweighed the minor impacts.”

An independent inspector acting for the Secretary of State will now consider the planning application.

Sandridge Solar Power says the solar farm would have the capacity to generate enough electricity for approximately 11,400 average UK households - more than all of the properties in Melksham.

It would save up to 504,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions over the 25-year lifetime of the project, says the developer.

Mr Hughes said: "We had hoped that the planning committee’s decision would be positive, reflecting the strong local support we have received. This is a constructive project, which presents multiple benefits locally and for the whole of Wiltshire.”

A statement from the developer said: "At a public exhibition held in October, 60 per cent of people who completed a feedback form said they support the solar farm proposal.

"All three parish councils from Melksham Without, Melksham Town and Bromham in whose adjacency the project is located also voted in favour of the project and 62 public comments were submitted to the council in support of the proposal, as well as two additional petitions with 180 signatures.

"The solar farm site would continue to be used for agriculture and food production. Meadows of species-rich grassland will be created to enhance the biodiversity value of the site and provide grazing for sheep.

"All the existing hedgerows will be retained and additional hedgerow habitat created.

"A community benefit fund would be set up, providing around £44,000 per year for the 25-year lifetime of Sandridge Solar Farm to community projects, and is thought to be the largest fund of it’s kind in the country."

Sandridge Solar Power is a partnership between three companies for the purpose of developing Sandridge Solar Farm: Renewable Power, EnvironGauge and Notus Energy. 

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