CAMPAIGNERS say they have "won a significant battle" in their fight against plans which would see one of the country's biggest solar parks built near Malmesbury.

Island Green Power wants to build solar panels on 2,000 acres of farmland across six villages in Wiltshire as part of the Lime Down Solar Park project.

Locations in the project include agricultural land in Sherston, Hullavington and Stanton St Quintin near Malmesbury.

Developers say the scheme would create 500 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power around 115,000 homes.

However, in recent months there has been an outcry against the project - with more than 17,000 objectors signing a petition. 

Councillors from Wiltshire Council agreed during a meeting last Tuesday, May 21 to write to the government, asking it to ensure that solar farms are distributed "more evenly" across the UK.

Many councillors stated at the meeting that they feel the county has taken more than its fair share - Wiltshire already has more than 40 solar farms.

Cabinet member for strategic planning Nick Botterill, who proposed the motion, said: "It is truly titanic probably in more ways than one.

"If it were built, it would change the nature of that part of Wiltshire adversely and that's not to be alarmist but a simple observation of the fact."

Sir Michael Pitt, a former CEO of the Planning Inspectorate, spoke on behalf of the Stop Lime Down group: "We believe the development is the most damaging assault on the county's landscape in more than a lifetime.

"To call it a farm is an aberration. It is a vast industrial complex with battery storage, transformers and ugly solar cells some 4.5 metres high."

The motion was passed with 75 votes in favour, two against, and six abstentions.

Welcoming the news, a spokesperson for Stop Lime Down said: "We warmly welcome the councillors' rejection of the government's policy on large-scale solar projects.

"But while we are pleased to have won a significant battle today, we fully recognise that there is a long way to go in this war."

It comes as Claire Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero recently published a lengthy statement about the future of solar in the UK. 

She said: "Government recognises that, in some instances, solar projects can affect local environments which may lead to unacceptable impacts for some local communities."

Welcoming the statement, James Gray MP said: "Having campaigned against unsuitable solar farms across Wiltshire, I am delighted by the announcement from the Energy Secretary.

"I am pleased that she will strengthen the argument which I and so many in this campaign have been raising against using good agricultural land for solar energy, and the need for food security."

A spokesperson for Island Green Power said: "We acknowledge and respect the concerns expressed regarding the potential impacts of large-scale solar projects, such as Lime Down Solar Park, on the rural landscape of the local area.

"We recognise the importance of carefully balancing renewable energy initiatives with the need to preserve the integrity of the areas where we operate.

"Our aim has always been to design Lime Down Solar Park in a way that minimises negative impacts and maximises positive impacts on the environment and local community as far as is possible.

"Local input and consultation are an invaluable part of this process and we thank the 1,000+ people who participated in our early-stage community consultation that came to a close in April.

"We are currently reviewing the feedback we received during this time so we can use it to further refine our proposals ahead of a further consultation later this year.

"The application for development consent that we will submit to the Planning Inspectorate in 2025 will include environmental findings and details on our decision-making process for the project."

You can view the Wiltshire Council full meeting here -