Solar panels belong on rooftops before prime agricultural farmland. And farmland loss to solar developments is currently unregulated.
As part of the Solar Campaign Alliance, CARE Suffolk is supporting a petition asking the UK Government to Produce a Farmland Protection Policy to regulate the loss of farmland to solar.
Due to the cumulative impact solar developments will have on availability of agricultural land, the Government should produce a regulatory framework in the form of a National Policy Statement on Farmland Protection to avoid losing a critical mass of productive agricultural land to solar.
Agricultural land is a finite resource. We believe there is currently a policy conflict where Government seeks to protect and enhance our domestic production to maintain food security whilst also encouraging the growth of solar energy production. New ground-mounted solar developments must be subject to increased regulation to ensure that they do not undermine UK food security, which could result in increasing food costs.
If you feel this is a reasonable request, please sign the petition now.
I agree with the call for appropriate planning policy protection for farmland but there are already protections in the NPPF for best and most versatile farmland. One effect of this is that solar developers engage consultants to make a case to downgrade the land out of this protected category. We recently saw this at Bradwell near Coggeshall where this argument saw a solar farm consented. I understand that government is looking to rewind farmland and regard such as a carbon sink. This means they are already aiming to reduce the amount of farmed land. So I guess we need arguments beyond protecting the limited amount of good farmland through planning policy control. I personally worry that what is actually happening here is a process that parallels the way we have exported our industry related carbon footprint overseas as we became a service economy. Food production may go the same way if such policies see us import most of our food.
You are correct David that there are some protections in the NPPF, however the latest draft NPS for Energy would undo this protection. The use of best and most versatile land would no longer be a reason to refuse a planning application. Despite farmland being targeted by large scale solar developers, who as you rightly point out then hire consultants to try and downgrade the land for their planning documents.
Clearly you have little understanding of the practicalities and options with respect to the need for low carbon energy. More roof tops means more large buildings like massive distribution warehouses which also require land. To at least try and combat global warming hard choices need to be made. And in terms of agriculture our farming industry is suffering. To enable farmers to diversify should be seen as a good thing as it will help safeguard other land. And forget the food argument – food supply is global. The age of producing and eating what is grown in country are long gone.
Thank you for your comment. The Solar Campaign Alliance has a very wide range of experts in the group, from agronomists, farmers, biologists, and policy experts, as well as electrical and renewable experts. The understanding and practicalities are well understood. There are already more than enough rooftops (commercial and residential) to accommodate more than enough solar panels. This was established by BRE in 2016 who calculated around 250,000 acres of suitable rooftop space across the UK. Many more suitable rooftops have been built since then. The need for low carbon energy and solar panels is a given. But the need to use productive farmland at an unregulated rate, especially for the most inefficient and land-hungry renewable energy (solar PV) is dangerous. The UK already imports around 40% of its food. Global food supply is only global in times of peace and stability. The pandemic has proved that global food chains are not as resilient as we would like to think. And as global temperatures rise, the amount of food from fields decreases. That includes countries around the world, not just the UK. This petition simply asks the government to regulate the loss of farmland.