Green light for 93-acre solar farm at Merton

Pics of completed solar farms by Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd, similar to what the proposed farm in Lovedean could look like
Pics of completed solar farms by Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd, similar to what the proposed farm in Lovedean could look like

Plans to create one of the district’s largest solar farms on fields near Merton have been approved.

The solar farm, consisting of more than 84,000 individual electricity-generating panels, will cover a sprawling site of around 93 acres.

Officer Bob Duxbury, head of development control for Cherwell District Council, said the site, “...must be one of the largest fields in the district.”

He said the development, which had been recommended for approval by officers, would be hidden from the surrounding countryside by a three-metre hedge on one side and a 40-metre belt of woodland on the other.

It would not be visible from the road between Ambrosden and Merton, said Mr Duxbury.

Councillor James Macnamara, of the Astons and Heyfords ward, spoke out against the development.

He said: “Just because it’s called a farm doesn’t make it appropriate for the open countryside.

“It’s a totally inappropriate development, it should be on a site designated for industry.”

He added: “Because it’s sustainable and ‘green’ we’re being asked to accept what’s basically an electricity factory in open countryside.”

He said he would like to see a condition banning the use of lighting at the site, if the plan was approved.

“It’s going to be bad enough by day, but going for a massive amount of light pollution at night would be even more unacceptable,” he added.

Councillor David Hughes, of Launton, pointed out that the council had supported a similar proposal in Newton Purcell.

“If we’re going to have this, it needs to be where it’s not having a detrimental effect on local properties, and this is quite isolated,” he added.

Solar panels will cover most of the field, with access tracks running between the arrays. The panels will be mounted on a metal framework, which will be anchored underground.

Each panel is a metre wide and just over 1.5 metres high, and will stand up to 2.3 metres tall when mounted on its frame.

The solar farm will also include 13 small buildings to accommodate inverters and transformers.

Plans include security cameras and a two-metre fence.

No public footpaths or bridleways cross the site, councillors were told.

Councillor Lawrie Stratford, of Bicester East, joked: “I worry if there’s an accident we could end up with roast lamb sitting in the field.”

Ambrosden Parish Council supported the principle of the application, but said the site should be screened, and hedges should be retained.