Banburyshire villages surrounded by 'new energy' farms set up fund to fight solar panels appeal

Three south Northamptonshire villages between Banbury and Brackley have set up a fund in a bid to prevent a third solar farm on their doorsteps.
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The Copse Lodge Action Group (CLAG) has started a Go Fund Me page to raise £20,000 to fight an appeal by developers who want to build an ‘industrial size’ solar farm in the valley between Greatworth, Marston St Lawrence, Halse and Farthinghoe.

West Northamptonshire Council refused permission for the 182-acre Copse Lodge solar farm last October. But developers JBM Solar Projects 20 Ltd have gone to appeal.

Mick Morris, Farthinghoe Parish Council chairman, said a detailed map – featured in this article – shows not only the destruction but also how much this small area contributes to renewables without having Copse Lodge added to it.

Residents of villages in south Northamptonshire are trying to raise money to fight a huge solar farmResidents of villages in south Northamptonshire are trying to raise money to fight a huge solar farm
Residents of villages in south Northamptonshire are trying to raise money to fight a huge solar farm

“HS2 is very clear – then you can see two other solar farms and an anaerobic digester which takes away 1000 acres of food producing land,” he said. “Drovers Lane solar farm already has planning permission and construction should start soon. The anaerobic digester is up and running, as is the third solar farm.”

The Banbury Guardian described part of the fight against the solar farm plan before the planning rejection in a story last August.

On its fundraising page, the CLAG group says: “We are fundraising on behalf of the Copse Lodge Action Group which has been opposing the development of an industrial-size solar farm in the beautiful valley situated between Greatworth, Marston-St-Lawrence, Halse, and Farthinghoe, in south Northamptonshire.

“The planning application was rejected by West Northants on the basis of its impact on the environment. However, the developer is now going to appeal this decision and an inquiry is due to be held in June by the Planning Inspectorate.

A map of the  'new energy' schemes. A third solar farm is located just off this map, to the south eastA map of the  'new energy' schemes. A third solar farm is located just off this map, to the south east
A map of the 'new energy' schemes. A third solar farm is located just off this map, to the south east

“West Northants Council is defending its decision. However, we as a local community group, have also gained Rule 6 status which enables us to challenge the appeal on grounds not only on the impact on the landscape but also issues such as bio-diversity impact, food security and some highly debatable claims by the developer on emissions and power generation capacity.

“Our parish already has one solar farm and HS2 to the north of the village. These two schemes alone take up almost a third of our parish area. Please help us stop the development of this 182-acre solar farm to the south. We need to raise £20,000 for legal and expert opinion to support our mounting challenge.”

See the fundraising page here.

Conor McAllister, Project Manager at JBM Solar, said: “We were disappointed that our proposals were narrowly refused in October. The site would meet the equivalent annual energy needs of approximately 12,000 homes and help to deliver on the council’s net zero ambitions.

“The final scheme was the result of a lengthy engagement process that saw us amend the proposals in light of the feedback received. We were delighted to see that as a result of this, our application received support from almost 100 local residents. We feel that in refusing the scheme, the council overstated the potential level of harm.

“The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has acknowledged that climate change is the biggest threat to food security, which is why proposals like ours are so important. We remain hopeful that the Planning Inspector will recognise the benefits this site will deliver in helping to tackle both the climate and cost-of-living crises.”

If planning consent were approved, the solar farm would operate for at least 40 years.

JBM Solar Projects 20 Ltd in 2019 put in an pre-application request for a 420 acre site to the council with two potential sites for them to consider and provide advice on.

They then submitted an application for a 256 acre last year and then withdrawing it just before decision.

They resubmitted a plan for a 182-acre site which they say would produce nearly 50MW (Megawatts) of electricity. The site would have battery storage for a similar amount and there would be a new substation near Halse.

Villagers say the panels, battery stations, pylons and equipment will ruin the rural tranquillity of the land. Footpaths and bridleways would be ruined, they believe. And they dispute the claims JBM make about how much power would be generated and what emissions would be created.