It is time to see sense on new solar farm developments
North Tawton is earmarked for one of the largest solar park developments in England at 143 acres (57 hectares) if planning permission is approved. The site has been selected by Kinetica because they believe that the cheese factory and haulage depot already give the town an urban and industrial influence.
We are astonished that productive grade 2 and grade 3 agricultural land is to be used for a combined solar farm and Eco park upon which they wish to introduce flora and fauna for the benefit of tourism and to re-engage the local community.
As tourists visit the area to walk and enjoy the unspoiled nature of the countryside and to see animals in their natural habitats as do the local residents, I fail to see how the scale of this development is going to induce anyone to visit other than natural curiosity and to feel relieved that they live elsewhere.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change clarified the National Planning Policy Framework for me with regard to renewables and the selection of land, I quote:
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"The deployment of solar PV must be carried out in a manner which is thoughtful, sustainable and respects the views of the communities among which it is deployed and the use of brownfield (and lower grade land) should be preferred. We do not want to see high grade agricultural land which would be better used for producing food taken out of productive use."
Central government has to meet 15% of homegrown electricity consumption targets by 2020 and the onus is on councils to do their bit in providing this. As the Westcountry is considered to have the highest level of sunshine our region is taking the brunt of solar farms. Renewable developments in the name of sustainability are backed by private investors with generous government subsidies and that is the driver rather than any sense of altruism for local communities. Surely sustainability means producing sufficient for one's needs on an ongoing basis and maintaining or increasing production whilst not depleting resources. The debate goes much further than renewables which are inadequate to meet the high expectations of society. England is overpopulated for the land mass and the requirements for food, fuel and energy are unlikely to be met within UK provision. To utilise agricultural land for solar parks, housing, biomass and biofuels crops depletes our limited resources for food sustainability. Devon has brownfield sites if we must go down the solar route even with the suggestion from Climatologists that we could have a prolonged cycle of wet summers and winters which will make an array of solar panels something of a white elephant. I would agree with Jeremy Browne MP that there should be stipulations to include solar roof panels on new build properties. As Central Government is now seeing sense about land based wind turbines, it is time a similar approach was taken to solar panels and housing before we permanently lose good productive farmland.