Solar farm at Otmoor would be a travesty

Landscape image of a field at Noke, the proposed site for a solar farm

6th June 2024

Plans for a solar farm at Noke, on the southeast edge of Otmoor, are going to the Cherwell District Committee planning committee today, 6th June.

It is widely recognised that only a small percentage of our landed is needed to meet our solar requirements. Given that, why develop on land which is not only on the Green Belt, but also on Otmoor, a beautiful and unique site which forms crucial wildlife habitat?

We understand councillors may seek a site visit, which would postpone the debate until the next meeting in July, but in the meantime we have sent an email to councillors to put forward our continued objection.

This is just one of two proposed major solar developments, the other being at Stratton Audley, which we are also objecting to.

See below for our latest response, and read here for our original objection in 2022.

CPRE Oxfordshire are committed to the pursuit of renewable energy without damage to the wider environment. Support our campaign for Rooftop Renewables by signing this petition and read more about our stance here.

CPRE – Protecting Rural England.

Dear Councillor,

CPRE ask you to refuse the solar farm in the middle of Otmoor (of all places) 22/01682/F Item 11 on the agenda.
This is why.

The officers report recommending the development states that this was “a very balanced decision”, that is if just a bit more weight had been given to what the officer accepts to be the “relatively significant harm identified”, the recommendation would have gone the other way. We think the officer should have given the harm a good deal more weight and ask you to give the harms more weight and refuse.
More weight should have been given to the unique character of Otmoor, and the nature of this site, set, as it is, in a landscape bowl with wide elevated views from surrounding villages, as you will see if you visit the site. More weight should have been given to the presumption that Green Belt countryside should remain open and undeveloped, not industrialised. Although only parts of this site may be 3a, best and most versatile agricultural land, the rest is only just below at 3b and still provides plentiful healthy crops, which would be lost for a generation if this development went ahead.
It is true of course that solar energy is a benefit, but it is also true that the Government tells us that only 1 % of the land surface is required for solar energy. Likewise Oxfordshire’s “Pathway to a zero carbon Oxfordshire”, mentioned in the officers report as a supporting factor, only requires at most 2,600 hectares of solar energy in the County, again just 1% of Oxfordshire’s 260,000 hectare land area.
This all means that whilst solar energy has to be somewhere, that does not mean it has to be everywhere. Whilst fully meeting the Pathways targets, we can still be highly selective about where solar energy is permitted. There is no justification, and therefore no “very special circumstances”, to justify industrialising beautiful and unique sites like this.
What is more, there is actually no necessity to site new industrial solar developments on  green fields in Oxfordshire at all. Given the amount of solar energy already installed in the County, we calculate there is enough space on commercial and domestic roofs to meet the County’s Pathways to Zero Carbon targets without touching more green fields at all, leaving the countryside to produce the crops we need and the recreation and relaxation we enjoy.
We ask you to take these comments into account when deciding your response and refuse the application.
Best Wishes