SBW Campaigners recently gave an interview to Witney Radio at Eynsham Carnival, outlining why Botley West Solar Farm is a bad idea, the role of Blenheim Estate and the unclear funding source of the Developer, PVDP.
On 19 July, a Westminster debate was held on planning and solar farms.
Dr Caroline Johnson MP opened the debate, highlighting the huge volume of large-scale solar farms planned for farmland that are circumventing local planning regulations due to their designation as national infrastructure.
Botley West Solar ‘Farm’ is a proposal to build a 3,400 acre Ground Mounted Solar installation across Oxfordshire Green Belt – by a German Developer and two large Landowners, Blenheim Estate and Merton College.
The Stop Botley West Campaign, Oxfordshire totally supports a transition to green energy including the use of solar panels, but we maintain that Botley West is the most damaging way to achieve this and must be stopped.
Nowhere in the world has a ground mounted solar farm this vast (bigger than Heathrow) been built so near to human habitation (11,000 homes within 1.5km) and for very good health and safety reasons (learn more).
It would remove thousands of tons of crops each year at a time of growing concern about food security. 250,000 hectares of unused, south-facing commercial roofs in the UK could be used instead (learn more).
There are many better ways to produce green energy. Offshore wind is up to 51% efficient compared with solar panels less than 22% (learn more).
There will be no natural gains for wildlife or the environment. There will be loss of wildlife habitat, increased risk of flooding and 51 miles of 8ft high animal proof security fencing restricting movement (learn more).
Botley West may never pay back the carbon debt it accumulates in the construction, transportation and decommissioning of panels. There is a huge amount of carbon generated in all these operations (learn more).
The current plans show Botley West SF could encroach within 100m of Blenheim Palace boundary wall and threaten its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Historic sites like Sansom’s Platt in Wootton and Churchill’s grave in Bladon Churchyard would also be overwhelmed (learn more).
75% of the proposed site is on greenbelt land which should be protected. It would industrialise the countryside for 40 years and may never be returned to agricultural use (learn more).
Solar Panels will be highly visible at ground level from roads and footpaths for visitors and residents alike over an 11 by 3 mile area, It cannot be ‘landscaped to only be seen through gaps in the hedges’ as claimed (learn more).
The main financial beneficiaries of this industrialisation of the countryside are overseas developers PVDP (of dubious pedigree) and landowners Blenheim Estate (NOT the Palace itself) and Merton College (learn more).
The Local Solution
Solar energy should be used specifically to meet local demands and directly benefit local communities, not big landowners and overseas companies.
And there are other imaginative means of providing green energy. These are just four:
The National Solution
As well as a national rollout of these local solutions we have offshore windpower which offers peak electricity in the dark winter months when the UK most needs energy and when solar panels are least efficient. And, of-course, there are other offshore energy sources – wave power, tidal power etc already in use.
Finally, Andrew Tettenborn, Professor of Law at Swansea Law School sums it up in the Spectator: “In the dash for Green Energy “corporate capital is being handed a heaven- sent opportunity at the expense of you, me and the country we live in at least as regards solar power (Government policy) is not working for the benefit of the people ……..
but instead seems to favour a more international clientele.”
All of this means we don’t need old fashioned, large scale, inefficient solar ‘farms’.
"on my watch we will not lose swathes of our best farmland to solar farms. Instead we should be making sure that solar panels are installed on commercial buildings, on sheds and properties"
"let’s use our best agricultural land for farming and make use of brownfield sites for a lot of these energy projects"
" I will be studying all details of this proposal carefully and am listening to local residents and councillors. I will make sure the concerns of our local community are heard"
"Renewable energy schemes must be facilitated in appropriate places, with local support. With “Botley West Solar Farm”, this is not the case."