Swindon Borough Council has looked to fast track the development of more than 20 solar sites as part of efforts to boost the rollout of renewables and energy efficiency technologies in the area.

Last week the council’s planning committee agreed to proposals outlined by sustainability cabinet member Dale Heenan to adopt three local development orders (LDOs), turning aspects of renewables and sustainability works into permitted development.

One of the LDOs granted permitted development to more than 20 different solar projects in the area, removing the need for planning permission. Included amongst the 20+ sites – which have a combined capacity of around 50MW – are a number of ground-mount solar farms, solar car park canopies and two ‘solar sound barriers’ for the M4 and A419 roads.

The two other LDOs will grant permitted development rights to all hydrogen and electric car fuelling bays at existing petrol stations while also removing the need for planning permission for the installation of non-domestic air source heat pumps and requisite infrastructure for district heating systems.

And later this week Heenan is to propose that £6 million of council funding is to be invested in two large-scale solar farms being developed on council-owned land at Common Farm and Chapel Farm, Swindon.

The funding would see the council become an off-take financier and establish a Community Interest Company to allow local residents to invest in the two projects which have a capacity of 8MW each.

Planning permission for the sites is progressing under LDO and while a lease and management plan has yet to be agreed for Chapel Farm, the council expects to receive rental income of circa £43,000 per year for the two sites and generate electricity cost savings of between £50,000 and £150,000 each year.

The two sites are aiming to be pre-accredited under the much-maligned community feed-in tariff scheme and complete before the end of this year.