The developers of a controversial solar farm are accused of "ruining Christmas for thousands of Oxfordshire residents".

The developers behind the Botley West Solar Farm are to put their plans out for a second consultation over the Christmas holidays.

The 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) solar farm could span three sites - west of Botley, west of Kidlington and north of Woodstock.

More than 75 per cent of it will be on Oxford’s Green Belt.

Both CPRE, The Countryside Charity Oxfordshire and the Stop Botley West campaign group said they specifically asked the developer Photovolt Development Partners (PVDP) to delay the consultation until January. 

However, in a Statement of Community Consultation now published on its website, PVDP say it aims to begin consultation on November 30 and it will run until February 8.

Helen Marshall, director of CPRE Oxfordshire, said: “The environmental information alone is likely to run to hundreds if not thousands of pages. 

"We believe that if they were genuinely interested in the views of local people, they would be ensuring that the consultation ran at a more appropriate time. 

“However, we will be urging everyone to do their best to review the information within the time available and to make their views known.”

The director added that the company is "ruining Christmas for thousands of Oxfordshire residents". 

Oxford Mail: A meeting against the solar farm was held in Cumnor A meeting against the solar farm was held in Cumnor (Image: Contributed)

CPRE Oxfordshire reiterated that it supports a 'rooftops first' approach to solar energy.

It said the five-square-miles Botley West solar farm "would be located between the Blenheim Palace World Heritage Site and the city of Oxford, on productive farmland, mostly in the Oxford Green Belt and directly impacting the countryside on the doorstep of more than 11,000 local people".

Oxford Mail: WBSF banner in BladonFollowing this second round of consultation, proposals will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. 

The development is so large it will be assessed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and the final decision will be made by the government.

If approved, building work could start in 2025.

In October PVDP said it was taking the "opportunity to review" proposals for the scheme after landowner Merton College pulled out.

The college owned five per cent of the proposed site at Begbroke. 

It said following "further early-stage discussions" it would be using its land at Hall Farm for planting extensive wildflower meadows to enhance biodiversity which it said was a "key pilot" scheme in its sustainability strategy.

In a statement PVDP responded: "This does not affect the viability of the project.

"We remain committed to developing a scheme that could deliver approximately 840MW of renewable energy and make a significant contribution towards delivering energy security for the UK and achieving Net Zero targets."

Blenheim Estate, which owns most of the land for the solar farm, said "the merits of this proposal remain clear and the case for us all to increase the number of sustainable energy initiatives is only getting stronger".

Oxford Mail: Solar farm protesters out in force Solar farm protesters out in force (Image: Contributed)

A spokeswoman for PVDP said: "We are planning for this consultation period to run into the new year. Being mindful of the Christmas period – and accounting for this – we have proposed extending our consultation to be open for a period of 10 weeks.

"For context, this is longer than the first phase of consultation we undertook last year, longer than the period we have previously discussed with local planning authorities, and significantly longer than the statutory requirements for consultation on schemes such as Botley West.

"In-person drop in events are one of the ways anyone interested in the proposals can find out more information and engage with members of the team during the consultation period.

"A series of in-person events have been scheduled to take place over a range of dates, times, and locations, in order to provide sufficient opportunities for members of the community to attend.

Oxford Mail: Plans for the solar farm are proving contentious Plans for the solar farm are proving contentious (Image: Oxford Mail/PVDP)

"We are intending to hold nine in-person events over the consultation period, with four held before Christmas and five organised for the new year. No events are being scheduled within the 10 days before Christmas or the first 10 days of the new year. This is to account for the Christmas period.

"We are designing the consultation period to be accessible, and therefore attending an in-person event is just one way that members of the community can take part in the process.

"We will also be holding an online webinar in the new year for members of the community to ask questions to the project team, and people can get in touch to ask questions through our range of free-to-use communication channels listed below.

"Anyone interested in the project can submit feedback during the 10-week period, and they will be able to find out more by visiting our website or by accessing materials at one of our community access points."

A Blenheim Palace spokesman added: "The consultation is being extended by an extra four weeks over the minimum period to reflect Christmas and holidays and to ensure extra time for consultation.  Delaying consultation makes no sense whatsoever."