The proposed ‘wildlife centric’ RWE developed solar farm just north of Mill Lane, Bicester, would help to tackle both the energy crisis and climate crisis by generating enough affordable clean energy for around 16,680 homes, whilst using no good quality farmland and resulting in a 215% net gain for local biodiversity.

The plans are currently being considered by Cherwell District Council and, if approved, would save over 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 compared to fossil fuel generation (equivalent to planting over 21.4 million trees). This would represent an important contribution to tackling the climate crisis, with the UK experiencing one of its wettest winters on record this year, followed up by the hottest February and April on record.


Solar energy also represents one of the cheapest forms of energy generation, meaning the Padbury Brook Solar Farm would play a part in bringing electricity bills down, securing the UK’s energy supply, and helping to move away from expensive imported energy. 

The designs for the solar farm, north of Mill Lane in Bicester, have been developed by wildlife conservationist and trained ecologist Robin Johnson, and ‘seek to place a special focus on improving local biodiversity and opportunities for wildlife.’ Coming from a conservation background, Robin is also the project manager for the scheme, representing RWE Renewables, who would also build and operate the site.


He notes: ‘The farm will support a diverse range of habitats and species once up and running. There will be 10 acres of new dedicated wildflower around the site, including along the new 2.3km proposed permissive footpath, in addition to a vast, diverse grassland meadow in and around the panels. This would provide vital butterfly/bee habitats, both of which are under threat in the UK due to loss of habitat and pressures from intensive pesticide use, and over 2.4km of new native hedgerow and tree planting, further improving interconnectivity of habitats on-site. Solar farms, when done right, represent a fantastic opportunity to create vast new, undisturbed/preserved habitats, free from biocides, and a result of this wildlife centric design means a considerable 215% gain to local biodiversity will be achieved (meaning the site will effectively be 215% better than it is currently for wildlife, well above the 10% required by UK legislation). Wildlife conservation is my passion, and I’m absolutely delighted with what we’ve been able to achieve with this site.’ 


Recent long term monitoring studies undertaken across 37 existing solar farms have found a considerable increase in the number of pollinators/insect life, in addition to an increase in the abundance of green, amber and red list bird species, compared to adjacent arable farms surveyed.

The large 4-10m gaps between the rows of panels will allow high quality grass to grow around the site, even under the panels due to the spacing provided, with sheep grazing used manage the land in an ecologically sensitive way, allowing the site to continue producing food for the UK market. 


The development will also support local projects and initiatives, with a community benefit fund worth over £650,000 provided, and £2.5m in local business rates payable to the Cherwell Council to fund local services. Extensive public consultation took place over the past 2 years on the plans, with 83 support comments received on the application, and an independent local poll finding 74% of respondents to be supportive or neutral to the plans.

The site will also retain its greenfield status before, during and after development, would not use any 'good' quality farmland, sits wholly outside the green belt, and would help the existing farm secure its future by diversifying its business, allowing it to continue to operate in trying economic times.

You can view more about the scheme at