Oxfordshire campaigners have hit out at the "shamefully inadequate" public consultation exercise mounted by the developers of the Botley West Solar Farm.

Photovolt Development Partners (PVDP)'s 10-week public consultation on the 1,000 hectare (2,471-acre) facility on sites near Botley, Kidlington and Woodstock runs until February 8.

In this second round of community consultation events, the public have been able to see a report on the environmental impact, as well as the developer's updated proposals after Merton College pulled its Hall Farm site in Begbroke from the plans last October.

Oxford Mail: Protesters against Botley West Solar Farm

Professor Alex Rogers, chair of the Stop Botley West community group, said: “75 per cent of the proposed 3,400-acre development is on Green Belt land mainly owned by Blenheim Estate.

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"This valuable natural resource for the residents of Oxfordshire and beyond would be industrialised for the 40-year life of the Botley West scheme and may never be returned to agricultural use.

“This disproportionate, untested project would armour-plate 11 miles of mainly productive arable Green Belt land with 2,700,000 solar panels.

"Given the massive impact on people’s lives and well-being, the recent consultation exercise was shamefully inadequate – it didn’t even involve meetings in all the affected villages.

“Data from a survey by the developer, Photovolt Development Partners (PVDP), shows that 80 per cent of local residents are opposed to building a massive solar power station, the size of Heathrow Airport, in close proximity to 11,000 homes."

Professor Rogers said the developer must supply "objective, independently verified answers to the challenges raised by concerned communities".

"This is particularly important for complex technical issues including ‘Best and Most Versatile’ land use, and claims about ‘special circumstances’ to justify the scale of the development on Oxford’s green belt,” he said.

“The visualisations for the consultation process were misleading, and the developer’s representatives had limited relevant knowledge, often referring questioners to experts who weren’t at the consultation session.

"PVDP needs to restart the consultation process from scratch.”

He described the consultation process, which started in the run-up to Christmas, as “triggering emotions ranging from concern and frustration to anger and tears.

Much of the anger, he said, came from "generalised claims by Mark Owen-Lloyd, a paid spokesman for PVDP, about residents, communities and organisations who are appalled by the scale of the scheme".

“We are often wrongly categorised as putting self-interest above concerns for the next generation, for tackling the climate crisis, and for protecting the planet.

"This is just not true - we are united by genuine fears that this massive, untested, profit-driven technological experiment will destroy the local environment and heritage that the Churchill family has worked so hard to preserve for centuries.

“Oxfordshire is among the top UK counties in reducing energy consumption and adopting renewables.

"We recognise the climate crisis and embrace the need for decarbonisation and increased use of renewables.

"Our national renewables policy should combine the UK’s ample wind resources with solar on wasteland, brownfield sites, on roofs, and in community-backed small-scale developments such as Charlbury.

“Oxfordshire is also the most important county in the SE region for farmland, countryside and associated wildlife.

"Given its scale, Botley West will damage many wildlife species, with no serious mitigation being offered by PVDP, and the massive reduction in arable land will slow the UK’s progress towards food security and resilience."

Prof Rogers concluded: “Given the untested scale of the Botley West proposal, accountability to current and future generations is a critical strategic consideration.

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"PVDP’s business model is based on the future sale of the solar power station to generate profits for its owners and investors.

"It should be open about the timing of its exit strategy, and how its promises about lack of intrusion, enhanced biodiversity and minimal land impact will be enforced in the future.”

After visiting a consultation session in Woodstock, Rupert Harrison, Conservative candidate for the new Woodstock and Bicester constituency, said: “The strength of local feeling against the proposals was very apparent from the conversations I had, especially the sheer scale of the plans - an industrial site bigger than Heathrow dropped into the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside.

“There are no examples anywhere in the world of a solar farm on this scale so close to where so many people live, and for good reason.

"There are better ways to continue our investment in renewable energy, including smaller solar installations, rooftops, and building on the UK's huge success since 2010 in wind energy.”