The following article, containing remarks originating from the Council for the Protection of Rural England, has been widely circulated within the village:
"Campaigners fear that vast swathes of the British countryside will soon be green in name only after being paved with solar panels.
Solar farms were intended to plug a gap in the government’s renewable energy policy. They attracted generous subsidies for landowners prepared to sacrifice their fields.
However, the rush to cover the countryside with photovoltaic panels has alarmed conservationists, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which claims that vital agricultural land is being given up unnecessarily and could present a “back door” for housing development.
Today the CPRE will urge the government to encourage solar parks on the south—facing roofs of factories, offices and shopping centres, but not on fields where crops could be grown. It claims that an area twice the size of Greater London is available for solar panels without encroaching on the countryside.
Plans for nearly 200 solar farms are under consideration, despite the government’s intention to remove subsidies for large-scale developments from April 1. There are 15 solar farms approved or seeking planning permission within six miles of one small Wiltshire town alone.
The CPRE is also concerned that agricultural land could be redesignated as “brownfield” when the agreement for a solar farm comes to an end, typically after 25 years. This would open a back door to development that planners could find hard to challenge.
The CPRE’s policy document published today says: Planning conditions should require that solar sites continue to be classified as agricultural land throughout their life.
CPRE believes that high-quality agricultural land should not be used for solar farms. This reflects the growing importance of food security.
Although the CPRE and the National Trust welcome the development of green energy in principle, they are concerned at the environmental impact of solar panels. The CPRE warns that security fencing and lighting around solar farms is disturbing wildlife as well as being a visual blight.
Nick Clack, the CPRE’s senior energy campaigner, said: An area at least twice the size of London is available for solar electricity on commercial roofs and brownfield land unsuitable for housing. But the government needs to do much more to help realise this massive potential. Our guidance doesn’t rule out solar farms, but it does say they should meet criteria on protecting landscape and heritage, the best agricultural land, and maximising biodiversity.
The government has already indicated that it has more than enough solar energy in the pipeline. Subsidies of up to £1,000 an acre for the next 25 years have been taken up by the owners of more than 17,300 acres of England. Plans for a further 9,500 acres of solar panels have been submitted.
According to the CPRE there are 15 solar farms planned within six miles of the Wiltshire town of Melksham alone.
The stigma of nimbyism and a reluctance to be seen opposing green energy have made it difficult for some opponents to speak out, but in May the actor and comedian Griff Rhys Jones led a successful campaign against a £25 million solar farm near his home in Suffolk.
The scheme was rejected by a planning inspector who said it had not been demonstrated that it was necessary to build it on productive arable land.
However, the Solar Trade Association is determined to fight back. Next month it will challenge in the High Court the decision of the Department of Energy and Climate Change to withdraw subsidies from new farms generating more than 5 megawatts."
Independently, a front page article in the Coventry Telegraph, 23rd August, is about plans to build thousands of homes in the green belt to the North West of the City. You can read that article here: