Statement from Cllr Liam Walker: Botley West Solar Farm
Over the past few months, a number of residents have contacted me about the proposed Botley West Solar Farm and the impact this will have on our local area.
The main section of this proposal will mean large sections of West Oxfordshire farmland near Long Hanborough, Bladon, Begbroke, Tackley, Wootton, Bladon, Woodstock, Church Hanborough, Eynsham and Cassington covered in solar panels.
I recently sat down with the Chief Executive of Blenheim Palace to hear first-hand from them about these plans, as the main contributing landowner, and I attended one of the community drop in sessions held by Photovolt Development Partners to discuss this proposal with local residents and the project team.
Since news of the plans were revealed I've been conducting an online survey asking for resident views on the proposal and 70% of those who responded were not in favour of the plans, 21% were somewhat in favour but had concerns and only 9% were in favour of this solar farm.
Whilst I welcome the push from Blenheim Palace and other land owners to increase the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy into the national grid, I cannot in good faith support this solar farm and I have serious concerns about the size and scale of this proposal.
Like many people, I understand and accept that the UK needs to increase renewable energy, the current war in Ukraine has highlighted just how sensitive our energy market has become, but I don’t see how removing farmland can be justified in achieving this goal. I also believe that rather than using fields for solar farms we should be using existing buildings to install solar systems. As a major local housebuilding provider, Blenheim Palace have the resources to install solar panels on all their new homes, a point I pressed when I met with their Chief Executive.
The proposal for the Botley West Solar Farm in my view has no benefit to the local community that it will be impacting other than the promise of better walking routes and the possibility of green infrastructure.
The decision on whether this proposal goes ahead will be a matter for the government and when that moment comes, I will do all I can to make the case that massive solar farms are not the way forward and the government should promote schemes that will be acceptable to local communities.
Cllr Liam Walker
Hanborough & Minster Lovell Division