There was broad approval for an outline proposal to turn the third phase of Shaw Forest Park into a site to generate solar energy for up to 1,500 homes at a presentation by Swindon Commercial Services (SCS) on 2 February.
Some people have the impression that the installation is proposed for phase 1 of the park which has had public access for over ten years.
If it goes ahead the solar panels would go on the third phase which was completed last year and is not due to open for at least another five years whilst the land settles.
The idea is to cover around 25 acres with 25,000 panels, covering about 80 per cent of the former landfill site, with panels mounted on concrete plinths to avoid penetration of the land which has been capped to prevent the escape of methane gas.
Above, James Owen pointing out the site to David and Pauline Llewellyn from Shaw. Below, Clare Walker from Peatmoor with SCS Business Development Director Andrew Sims
James Owen, sustainability manager at SCS, said the idea of applying for permission to use Shaw Forest 3 is at an early stage. “It would be an application to use the site for 25 years at which point it would be returned to its existing state. A further application would be required to continue using the site.
“How the scheme is financed is subject to a lot more discussion. The borough council will have to consider whether to seek an investor, or it could be a project where Swindon people are invited to buy shares in the scheme which would deliver a return. I’m interested to know what people are saying.”
He added that he’s looking at how electricity from the site could be consumed by the closest housing.
Shaw resident David Llewellyn is an enthusiastic supporter of the project. “Where it is it won’t be an eyesore and if it is community owned it could deliver a good return for people who have seen the value of their savings drop.
“It’s also a fixed cost installation which would generate energy which isn’t based on speculative manipulation of the market, or what people in Russia or the Middle East do.”
Shelley Morgan from Woodhall Park said she wants to know about the project. "I was impressed with the proposal although it is difficult to understand exactly how the energy output from the solar array will be used specifically for 1,500 houses in the immediate area. It was clear that James is passionate about the project but I am not sure people in the immediate area have been told enough about the supposed benefits and solar panels staying for 25 years; it doesn’t seem temporary to me."
Reservations from Shaw Residents’ Association
Shaw Residents’ Association issued a statement to the council: ‘Whilst the SRA of course understands the rational for renewable energy sources, we also cherish our accessible open countryside in and around West Swindon, a feature that is being all too quickly consumed by un-wanted housing developments.
‘Shaw Forest has been under development for several decades and many local people have fought long and hard to keep it. Phase three has always been intended to be part of that forest and part of our accessible countryside, the loss of this and therefore one third of our cherished forest is hard to fully accept.
‘The forest was designed as a whole and the concept of phase three was for it to be dense woodland designed to encourage much wildlife and add contrast to the more open aspects of phases one and two. With these points in mind, we would like to see your proposals to mitigate the loss of this facility in terms of the impact on wildlife habitats, contrasts of open space vs. dense woodland and general size of the forest. We assume you will be generating ecological and environmental statements and would like to be able to review these kn conjunction with the plans you have to moderate the issues raised in this response.’