The boss of Blenheim Estates has denied West Botley Solar Farm is purely a money-making exercise and said anyone who suggests that is 'very sad'.

Campaigners against the huge solar farm, which would cover five square miles, will protest outside West Oxfordshire District Council’s offices today (22/3) ahead of a full council meeting.

The largest section of the controversial solar farm is between Kidlington and Eynsham (2,429 acres), another section is north of Woodstock, between Wootton and Tackley (818 acres) and the third section is just north of Cumnor and west of Botley (200 acres).

It will significantly impact upon Wootton, Glympton, Bladon, Woodstock, Long Hanborough, Church Hanborough, Rousham, Eynsham and Cassington in West Oxfordshire.

Witney Gazette: Dominic Hare.

Critics say the solar farm on land mainly owned by Blenheim Estates and Merton College, will blight the countryside and should be scrapped.

But Blenheim CEO Dominic Hare denied it was a money-making exercise.

He said it is "plainly not a 'pure money making exercise'.

"I think to imagine that the only reason anyone would back a de-carbonising project which generates this amount of clean energy is because it makes money is very sad.

"There are people and institutions who believe that it is very important that we strain every sinew to arrest and reverse climate change. Blenheim is one of those institutions.

"Wherever we can, we seek ways of fighting climate change that offer a financial return. What kind of crazy world would we live in if the oil giants were allowed to generate power for a profit, but those who want to generate clean energy are condemned if they make money in the process?

"Thank goodness our energy challenges have ready-made solutions with good business cases. It is the reason I am confident the money will flow to completely decarbonise energy production."

Witney Gazette: WBSF middle section

Developer Photovolt Development Partners (PVDP) have said WBSF could generate enough electricity to power up to 330,000 homes - roughly all the homes in Oxfordshire.

Mr Hare said: "There will need to be many more large scale solar, wind and tidal sites in order to power the whole country's clean power needs. We need to show that it can be done, and done well, and done profitably in order to encourage other landowners to make the choices we are making.

"If we cannot together achieve all of these things, future generations will have been utterly betrayed."

However, he agreed that "this project is large".

"So is the problem we are facing," he said. "Show me an elegantly small solution, and I will show you something which is not a solution at all.

"We need this kind of scale of project to fund the infrastructure cost of providing for the grid's costs, and for our county's needs.

"This project is one of a number of trailblazing beacons of hope for future generations - indeed today's generation in much of the world.

"It is temporary - in 35 years it will go.

"We, the generation which has had the best of this planet without realising the carbon price the planet was paying, now need to pay the bill.

"But we will work with local communities, as we did in the first round of consultation and will do in another round soon, to find a way to make this fit as well as it possibly can with our local communities, so long as we can also deliver the scale of clean energy project that is crucially needed."

The scheme will be decided by the Government's Planning Inspectors, and not by local councils.

If approved building could start in 2025.

Chair of Stop Botley West campaign group Karen Squibb Williams who has been invited to speak in the public session at the start of the council meeting said she expects about 100 protesters to join her.

She said their campaign is "really about trying to summarise the factual position in relation to this proposal rather than listening to the PR and the marketing and the greenwashing.”

Witney Gazette: Sign near Cassington

She said the group "does not oppose solar energy - we advocate solar farms using appropriate technology in appropriate places.

"SBW supports the urgent need for clean, green, renewable, efficient energy solutions. It must generate power, industry, and jobs for the UK.

"The developers - PVDP – the majority landowners, Blenheim Palace trustees and their spokesperson, Mark (a former stock market floor trader) - with the help of two global PR companies, have so far only provided the general public with conceptual and aspirational information about Botley West.

"Numbers and scientific headlines have been clearly referred to on a very smart website but no validated scientific data, no evidence, and no firm commitment regarding who will be doing what, and where, has been presented.

"One rather shocking example is the claim that 'Botley West will remove 14.4million tonnes of carbon over its operational lifetime'. This is simply not true.

"Stop Botley West wish to support and collaborate with the host district council, WODC, in challenging some of the ‘greenwashing’ so far provided to the circa 53,000 people affected by this proposal.

"As a large group of volunteers – many with exceptionally rich expertise – we are working tirelessly to get the bottom of what this proposal really means.

"Members of SBW are still very much small fry compared to the financial might of Blenheim Palace landowners and the investors backing the plan.

"So, the campaign job is to level the playing field as much as possible – for the Oxfordshire community and for the generations of the future who will contend with the Botley legacy if the glossy green claims fail to deliver on the giant Botley West promises."


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This story was written by Miranda Norris, she joined the team in 2021 and covers news across Oxfordshire as well as news from Witney.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Or find her on Twitter: @Mirandajnorris

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