Botley West Solar Farm completed its second consultation phase on 8 February 2024. Image: Low Carbon
Botley West Solar Farm completed its second consultation phase on 8 February 2024. Image: Low Carbon

The second consultation phase has been completed for the Botley West Solar Farm in the west of Oxfordshire.

The project, proposed by the developer Photovolt Development Partners (PVDP), held a consultation period of over ten weeks from 30 November 2023.

More than 1,000 local residents, councils, and technical bodies attended the information event for the project, which will be split across three sites – Cherwell, West Oxfordshire, and Vale of White Horse.

Mark Owen-Lloyd, the project developer at PVDP, said it was “fascinating” to hear feedback from the community during the consultation period.

He said: “On behalf of the Botley West team, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to engage with our consultation, either through attending one of our events or getting in touch via the communication channels, and for all the feedback submitted.”

The NSIP aspect

Botley West is projected to generate more than 50MW at the site, meaning it qualifies as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).

Therefore, PVDP will apply to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for a development consent order (DCO).

At the time of the project’s first proposal in November 2022, the DCO was estimated to be submitted at the end of 2023, but it is now expected in Summer 2024.

There are several other NSIPs across the UK that have to apply through the same processes, including Low Carbon’s 500MW Gate Burton Energy Park solar project, the 350MW Cleve Hill Solar Farm, and the 350MW Mallard Pass Solar Farm.

In July 2023, the UK government announced that it was discussing plans to reform the NSIP process to enable faster consenting after many industry members criticised it for taking too much time.

NSIPs were introduced in 2008 via the Planning Act 2008 to streamline critical developments for the UK to achieve targets in energy and other sectors.

Since 2008, multiple pieces of legislation and government frameworks have been introduced to accelerate the nation’s journey to net zero, and it is argued that the NSIP process is outdated in relation to more contemporary laws.