RESIDENTS living alongside the south Bucks stretch of the M40 are a step closer to becoming the first in the country to benefit from innovative noise reduction technology.

A prize winning proposal by the community led M40 Chilterns Environmental Group (M40CEG) aims to combine the use of motorway noise barriers with the generation of clean energy via solar panels.

It is one of seven projects championed by the Co-operative Group's Community Energy Challenge. A new partnership will see official involvement and support from Wycombe District Council and the Highway Agency.

It follows an eight year battle by the M40CEG to reduce the impact of noise pollution along the motorway. Surveys conducted by the group revealed that almost 80per cent of those living close to the M40 between Junction 3 and 8 had found the noise negatively impacting on their quality of life ‘nearly always’ or ‘frequently’.

Almost a fifth also complained of sleep deprivation. Wycombe District Councillor Jean Teesdale said: "The noise along the M40 corridor is a problem that has blighted the lives of local people for many years now. Generating energy from motorway noise barriers is groundbreaking - we'd love to make our part of the M40 the first place in the country to have this."

Although the pioneering technology has already been implemented in several other countries, the M40CEG’s proposal represents a first for the UK. Electricity generated from the photovoltaic barriers could even be used to help power homes and businesses running alongside the motorway.

The new partnership is eager to get the project underway through guidance from specialised support from the Centre for Sustainable Energy, funded by The Co-operative.

Colin Baines, from The Co-operative Group, said: "This is a particularly exciting project with enormous potential for replication. We are supporting several community groups across the country to set up and run their own projects.

"The intended result is an inspiring and replicable set of schemes that will help usher in a clean energy revolution."

Although development is still in the early stages, the formulation of a full business plan is hoped for the New Year with the potential for a proof of concept roll out in 2013/14.