Watchfield’s 80-year-old village hall will be reclad, insulated and repainted following a £10,000 donation from Hadstone Energy which is developing a 10MW solar farm in the area.
The solar farm developer gave the donation as a means of compensation for any disruption caused to the local community during the construction of the solar farm when work begins over the Christmas and New Year period.
Although not a stipulated term in the planning permission, after consultation with the local community, Hadstone Energy felt the donation would provide significant benefit to the community. James Rowe, director of Hadstone energy explained: “Although the hall only cost £189 to build in 1933, it now needs re-cladding and repainting and it seems that £189 doesn't go as far as it used to. As well as owning half of the land that the solar park is sited on, Keith Whitting is now chair of the village hall committee. Keith's grandfather was one of the original committee who raised funds to build the village hall, so it's fitting that 80 years later we should be presenting somewhat more than £189 towards the refurbishment project.”
Keith Whitting added: “We are grateful to Hadstone. This has a positive effect on everyone, as the village hall is owned by everyone in Watchfield.”
The 24-hectare site will generate enough electricity every year to power 2,400 households, around 10,000,000kWh per annum. A local farmer will continue to graze sheep across the entire solar farm, maintaining its current agricultural use for the 25-year operating period.
Philip Deeks, director of Hadstone defended the construction of solar farms in agricultural locations such as the Watchfield solar farm. He said: “This is not industrialisation of the countryside. It is about putting money into the countryside and local communities, whilst also securing the UK's future energy supply. We are using the land in two ways – as well as continuing with sheep farming on this land, the solar farm helps reduce the UK’s dependence on spending billions of pounds importing foreign gas which has pushed up energy bills alarmingly and which will carry on doing so. Instead, the solar farm will generate energy in the UK for 25 years and support UK farmers in their local businesses.”
The project is expected to start generating electricity in February 2014.