Pegasus Planning is working on behalf of Swindon Commercial Services Limited and The Science Museum at Wroughton to secure planning permission for a renewable energy solar park on land at The Science Museum. With a capacity of 40MW the solar farm would generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 12,000 average households. On December 10 th, Swindon Borough Council’s Planning Committee voted to authorise the Head of Planning to approve the planning application.
The plans will now be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit, and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles will have 21 days to review the application.
The planning application was validated on 15th July 2013. The planning application documentation can be viewed on the Council’s Online Planning Register (Press Here).
In order to engage with the local community and key stakeholders, a comprehensive pre-application consultation programme was carried out, which proved very effective at raising awareness of the proposals among local residents. This included a public exhibition; coverage on BBC Points West TV news; and on BBC Radio Wiltshire. As a result, Swindon Commercial Services Ltd identified an overwhelming level of support for the Solar Park from the local Wroughton community. Some 600 local residents attended the public exhibition held at Ellendune Community Centre on 26th January 2013, with almost 80 percent supporting the project.
The principal concern raised during the consultation is the potential impact upon the Ridgeway and The North Wessex Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB). Residents also asked: 1, Can we invest in the park? And 2, Is there going to be a community fund? These facilities have both been included. There will be a community benefit fund of £40,000, index-linked and payable for 30 years; and residents will also have the ability to invest directly, with a minimum investment of just £100.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), paragraph 116, states that planning permission may be given for major development (such as the proposed Wroughton Solar Park) in designated areas (i.e. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest.
The exceptional circumstances relating to this proposal and drawn from several material planning considerations are: overwhelming community support; contribution to renewable energy targets; wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources (carbon saving); and local community benefits.
Furthermore, the site is used by the Science Museum to store and preserve 30,000 objects from its collections, which are protected under the Heritage Act and are of local and national significant cultural heritage importance. The development will therefore provide a secure and reliable income to help the Science Museum continue this work for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.
It is recognised that within the vicinity of the proposed development there would be some significant landscape impacts, decreasing over distance. However these are clearly outweighed by the exceptional circumstances of the scheme.
Whilst the AONB designation washes over the area, the site itself contains the remnants of the former RAF Wroughton military airbase including the runways, hangers and associated buildings and should be viewed in its light-industrial context. This has allowed the Council to adopt a permissive stance towards development at the site as clearly illustrated through the various planning permissions and resolutions secured for The Science Museum at Wroughton.
If you have any queries regarding the Wroughton Solar Project then please contact Swindon Commercial Services Ltd by phone on (01793) 464547 or by email on Wroughton.Solar@pegasuspg.co.uk
Key documents are set out below:-
|Planning Statement (part 1)|
|Planning Statement (part 2)|
|Statement of Community Engagement (part 1)|
|Statement of Community Engagement (part 2)|
|Statement of Community Engagement (part 3)|
Solar PV Park