COUNCIL chiefs have rejected the first of a series of projects for solar farms in West Oxfordshire amid fears it will set a precedent.

They threw out a bid for a farm near Burford ahead of 12 other plans they will have to decide on.

The spate of applications comes as the Government prepares to end a taxpayer funded cash-back scheme for large solar farms.

West Oxfordshire District Council’s lowlands area planning subcommittee threw out the scheme for 14,500 panels on about 15 acres at Sturt Farm in Oxford Road.

Subcommittee member Peter Handley said: “It will be a blight on the landscape and a total intrusion on the area – an absolute eyesore. Once we let one in we set a principle.”

Mark Booty questioned the farms’ financial viability. He said: “Many of these sites are based on subsidies, rather than economic reality.

“I would hate to see Oxfordshire covered in photovoltaic cells that are not only a blight on the landscape, but also not producing anything.”

But Derek Cotterill said solar farms presented “an opportunity to balance up our carbon footprint.”

The developer said the plan would generate enough power for 800 homes.

The committee rejected the plan over its impact on roads, nearby listed buildings and its “urbanising impact”.

Sam Simson, who submitted an application last week for a 5,600 panel farm off Milton Road, Shipton-under-Wychwood, criticised the decision.

He said: “It’s time someone who, with more in-depth knowledge of the way solar power works, talks to the council. Our energy need is astronomical and we’ve got no cheap way of producing it ourselves.”

Labour introduced the ‘Feed in Tariffs’ scheme last April.

It gives an extra 29.3p per kilowatt hour for large solar farms on top of cash from selling energy to the national grid. But the Government announced this month it wanted to scrap the tariff for large solar farms.

Farms that started under the old scheme will continue to get the higher rates.

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said: “Large scale solar installations weren’t anticipated under the FITs scheme we inherited.

“I’m concerned this could mean money meant for people who want to produce their own green electricity has the potential to be directed towards large-scale commercial solar projects.”

The council will also consider a 27,000-panel site on 38-acres at Cornbury Park, near Charlbury, and an application for 22,000 panels over 30 acres at Homeleaze Farm, Grafton, near Bampton.

The council is in discussions with other developers, though formal applications have not been submitted.

Stuart Macdonald, who stood against Witney MP David Cameron for the Green Party at last May’s General Election, said: “It would be ludicrous to put a blanket ban on solar farms as there may be good reasons to at least experiment with solar panels.”