Concerns have been raised about the number of solar farms across Wiltshire and their effect on its rural status and heritage.

The North Wiltshire Heritage Group claims the county is now the capital of solar energy farms with the largest concentration of solar farms anywhere in the UK.

Wiltshire Council says it is difficult to verify this claim as the data the group has used does not match the government’s nationally recognised figures.

The council recognises there are concerns around the development of solar farms but states the need for more renewable energy in the county.

NWHG believes that a region once known for its world heritage sites and open spaces has become infamous for solar farms.

The group says Wiltshire has “seven of the top ten largest solar farms in the country and almost 800 MW of existing and approved solar energy capacity, covering over 3000 acres of mostly good quality agricultural land.”

It adds: “Even more worryingly, 90% of the total solar capacity in Wiltshire is focussed in North Wiltshire, where the once green agricultural landscape is quickly turning into a semi-industrialised vista.”

Ann Bellamy, one of the founders of the group, says she isn’t against solar energy, but rather against it being developed in the “wrong places.”

She worries about the views surrounding listed buildings, such as her Grade II home Malford House, and suggests “brownfield sites” or “new builds” would be better locations for solar developments.

NWHG has said it is calling upon the council to pause all new solar farm developments in Wiltshire following recently approved applications.

Wiltshire Council has confirmed there are currently 42 operational solar farms in the county, with a further 12 under construction or going through the planning process.

Councillor Nick Holder, cabinet member for environment and climate change, said: “We acknowledge there are concerns around solar farms being sited on agricultural land and impact is considered as part of the planning application process.

“Our climate strategy considers the potential tensions between land uses.

“It acknowledges there will need to be more renewable energy in the county, while also recognising and avoiding or mitigating the impact this might have on landscape and food production.

“Our current and emerging Local Plan for Wiltshire contains a coherent strategy for managing renewable energy development, that is consistent with national planning policy and guidance. 

The National Planning Policy Framework states that councils should provide a positive strategy for energy from renewable and low carbon sources, while ensuring that adverse impacts are addressed appropriately, including cumulative landscape and visual impacts.”