A PLAN to set up a community-owned solar energy scheme in Oswestry has been put in jeopardy by a government cut in funds to tackle climate change, organiser have claimed.

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has announced it can no longer accept applications for grants to its Rural Communities Energy Fund (RCEF) after a review by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), just days before an application was due to be submitted by OTC.

This £15 million pound fund was available to help renewable energy schemes get off the ground which would be owned and run by their host communities.

A project spokesman said that a year’s hard work had gone into getting to the application stage and it is unclear whether the request will be considered or not

Councillor Mike Isherwood, who initiated the council’s investigation into setting up the scheme, said that it would be a great shame if Oswestry misses out on an opportunity which “appears to have a great deal of merit” and that he hopes Defra quickly begins to realise the “enormous value”.

“We’d made brilliant progress with the solar project”, he said

“The application was just about to be formally submitted after twelve months of information gathering and preparation, and there had been a lot of positive interest from members of the public, especially when we held a public meeting in April.

“WRAP had given an initial approval of our going ahead with a full application and I was confident that we’d get the grant.

“If the feasibility study gave us the green light then we could have been looking at this becoming a reality next year.

“I hope we can find an alternative way of going forward because I think this is a tremendous opportunity with wide-ranging benefits for the people of Oswestry.”

The RCEF has helped establish small community projects to generate clean energy at the local level, helping to produce income for local economies, increase energy security, lower CO2 emissions and provide cheaper electricity.

There are fears that without RCEF paying for the necessary feasibility studies it will be more risky for people to invest in the projects and therefore less likely that a scheme will raise the money needed.

The spokesman added: “The funding blow follows other recent cuts by the government including the phasing out of Feed in Tariffs for energy produced by solar panels on the roofs of homes and big reductions in the help offered to make electric vehicles more affordable.

“On top of this the government is continuing to encourage shale-gas fracking to go ahead, to the dismay of environmentalists, and has even overruled Lancashire County Council’s decision to refuse permission for fracking at two sites in the county, effectively meaning that it is now almost impossible for local opinions to influence such decisions.

He added: “The timing of this latest cut to the help available for renewable energy is particularly ironic, coming as it does just as the International Panel on Climate Change has issued its clearest warning yet on the devastating level of temperature increase we are in imminent danger of causing if we do not do a lot more to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses over the next few years.”

Oswestry Town Council is due to discuss the matter tonight (Monday. October 15).