PROPOSALS to axe a subsidy for large solar farms have been welcomed by countryside campaigners.

The Government has said from April 2015 it wants to stop solar farms of capacities above 5MW from joining the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme, which pays a premium for renewable electricity sold.

It comes after the Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) warned that the number of applications in the pipeline for solar farms across the county amounted to the “industrialisation” of farmland.

According to the CPRE, 15 solar farms have been permitted so far in Oxfordshire, with 33 more currently in the pipeline.

Chairman Brian Wood said: “This subsidy was encouraging people to build these solar farms just to make money out of it, because the return of capital was very high, so this is a sensible decision.

“There have been a number of applications for solar farms in Oxfordshire in unsuitable places. There is no logic in building them on agricultural land when you could put them on office and petrol station roofs and they won’t be damaging the countryside.

“We are pleased with this announcement, but it should have happened sooner.”

In a policy document released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Government said it was taking action to control the costs of the subsidy scheme because take-up across the country had been higher than forecast.

The subsidy for solar farms of 5MW or higher would cease to apply from April 1 2015, with firms instead eligible to apply for a different subsidy. It is expected to include tougher criteria and begin accepting applications in October 2014.

Our top stories: