HERE are some of the questions and answers from last night's (Thursday's) online consultation to give locals a chance to have their say on plans for a proposed solar farm north of the A4 and east of Chippenham, at Forest Gate.

The development, proposed by Wiltshire-based Eden Renewables, could be up and running by 2022 if their plans are approved by Wiltshire Council.

Because of the current Covid lockdown, the event was held online as a webinar, hosted by Harry Lopes, Guy Parker, Suzanne Bangert, Alec Greenwell and Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Q: Why choose Forest Gate?

A: The area was chosen due to existing grid capacity in the area.

Mr Lopes, founder and CEO of Eden Renewables, explained: "Chippenham has a large substation with export capacity, from that you can go a few miles with your grid connection which allows you to search in a radius for a few miles. We then search for lower grade land and try to find a site that is screened from moth view points with no flood risk. There’s also good road access here."

Q: How much energy will it produce?

A: The 194-acre site will be 49.9 megawatts, which is enough to generate 60 gigawatts per annum. This is equivalent to the energy consumption of 13,800 average households. Eden say it will save 22,000 tons of CO2 each year, which is the equivalent to taking nearly 5,000 cars off the road.

Mr Lopes said: “These days in a subsidy free environment, one needs to get a project to be as close to 50 megawatts as possible in order to repay the very large cost of the grid.”

Q: What about noise?

A: Noise was a key concern in the consultation.

The Eden Renewables team maintained there would be little noise from the solar farm and that while battery storage stations "make a bit of noise" that noise would dissipate once you are 100 metres away.

There will be noise during construction which could be "a little irritating", planners admitted.

After the solar farm is built, the solar panel will “sit quietly” for 40 years, said Mr Lopes.

Q: When will work start?

A: If planning consent is granted then construction is poised to start in summer 2022. The site would then become operational in autumn 2022.

Q: Will the community benefit?

A: A community benefit fund will result in £350 per megawatt, amounting to £17,500 a year. The funds will most likely be administered by the parish council, explained Ms Fearnley-Whittingstall, who works in community engagement and PR for Eden Renewables.

She explained an additional £2,000 a year would be set aside for educational benefits that would benefit nearby schools such as King's Lodge Primary and Springfields Academy.

Work is also ongoing to give locals the chance to invest in the solar farm through a partnership with local community climate-change group, Zero Chippenham.

Q: Can locals get free or discounted power?

A: No, it is currently not possible in the UK to do this.

Q: What about traffic?

A: Construction is poised to take six months, with two months of that classed as 'peak' time. During these two months there will be deliveries of 15-20 HGVs a day but Eden "don't envision" any impact on nearby traffic.

After the solar farm is completed, there will be a handful of maintenance visits by van.

Q: Why are you building on greenbelt land and not brownfield sites?

A: The answer revolves around money, Mr Lopes explained.

He said: "This is a question that comes up often and I can only be extremely sympathetic with it. We would love all solar and windfarms to be built on brownfield. But brownfield is expensive ground because it has development value for residential or commercial projects, solar farms cannot come close to competing in terms of purchasing the land or renting the land.

"It's not economically viable."

Q: What about wildlife?

A: Surveys by Eden Renewables found six notable breeding birds and ten bat species. They also found great crested newts in pools by the nearby canal, as well as evidence of badgers.

Mr Parker, a biodiversity expert for Eden Renewables, explained: "Eden is committed to protecting the existing biodiversity and well do this in a number of ways.

"The first thing to mention is that the four fields east of the proposed development are a designated wildlife site, so this area will be avoided."

The land the solar farm could be built on, Mr Parker said, will be protected by using low pressure vehicles "as much as possible" that will only move in areas of low diversity.

There are also plans to plant trees and local wildflowers as well as to place bird and bat boxes throughout the area. Mr Parker added that roe deer and hare have been proven to live alongside solar farms.

Q: What about the impact on ancient land?

A: Suzanne Bangert said that studies were on-going to assess the impact of the solar farm on the site.

She said: "The impact is generally local to the site and quite often little impact exists much beyond the site boundary. We have heritage assessment underway and they identify a range of designated and non-designated assets.

"The impact on those will be assessed and preliminary results indicate a very small number of designated heritage assets are likely to be affected, and we’re looking at how we could screen that, particularly some of the houses on London Road that might be affected.

"We are looking at hedgerow and woodland planting on that boundary that would minimise the impact on those properties."

Q: What happens next?

A: The solar farm will be in place for 40 years. If Eden Renewables want to implement more solar panels and keep the site operational for longer, then they would to submit another planning application to Wiltshire Council.

Mr Lopes said: "Technology may have moved on by then, so the site will either be restored to its existing use or potentially shrunk down to a fifth or sixth of its proposed size, while still producing the same amount of power.

"The beauty of this is that the whole thing can be picked up, taken away, and you're left with a fantastic habitat."

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To find out more about the plans visit click here or email questions to