Govt to crack down on solar panels projects on prime farmland

Local councils will be advised not to approve solar panels on high quality farmland unless “necessary” according to a written ministerial statement laid before parliament.

solar panels on farm
Image: Unsplash

Ministers are set to urge local councils not to approve planning permission for solar panels on prime farmland, as part of a drive to protect food security.

Such projects should only be given the go-ahead when “necessary”.

The position has been made clear in a written ministerial statement laid before parliament.

Concern over BMV land

The National Policy Statement released in January made clear that such projects should, where possible, avoid the use of ‘best and most versatile’ (BVM) agricultural land.

However, ministers as large solar developments proceed at pace, more of this prime agricultural land could be used. 

Councils will also be told to consider whether other solar farms are nearby when considering an application for a new one, to avoid cumulative effects.

READ MORE: King Charles plans to set up huge solar farm on his Norfolk estate 

READ MORE: Concerns raised that solar farm in Kent may cause ‘serious harm’ to ancient Roman site

Claire Coutinho, secretary of state for energy security and net zero, said in her statement that while the total area of agricultural land used for solar is very small, ‘we are increasingly seeing geographical clustering of proposed solar developments in some rural areas, such as in Lincolnshire’. 

Ms Coutinho, secretary of state for energy security and net zero, said on X: ‘Our energy security must not come at the expense of our food security.

‘Today I’m making clear that solar farm applications should avoid the best quality farmland, and that proposals in areas with lots of applications are considered together.’

Sensitively sited

The Countryside Alliance has repeatedly raised concerns over the threat to UK food security as a result of leaving less land available for agricultural production.

Chief executive Tim Bonner said: “Energy infrastructure must be sited sensitively, and for food production to remain the primary use of productive agricultural land. 

“We welcome this statement as an important supplement to the recent revised planning framework.

“Like the government, we think there is much greater scope for encouraging solar panels to be placed on existing and new industrial and housing sites, to help ensure rural areas aren’t asked to bear a disproportionate burden in the move to a net-zero energy system. 

“That transition can’t happen without continued public support”.

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