Lincolnshire MPs call for a ‘proper’ solar farm planning process
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A debate in Westminster Hall, led by Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith, called for more regulation for large solar farms to allow people to have their say, to protect farmland and to ensure renewable energy proposals were in the right place.
Mr Clark-Smith told fellow members there was a lot of scepticism about the use of agricultural land and many of the MPs were keen to point out that they were supporters of renewable energy and its use in making the country self sustaining and secure.
However, they feared there could be an unbalance between the gains from the farms and the losses of the agricultural land – particularly around a lack of food security, with wheat imports currently being impacted by the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
There are currently several major solar farms in the pipeline for Lincolnshire.
Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh said his constituency was “going to be ringed” by a solar farm equivalent in size to 4,000 football pitches.
The Gate Burton Energy Park, near Knaith Park and Willingham by Stow, anticipates that it will generate 500 megawatts and power more than 160,000 homes. However, Sir Edward accused the size of the farm of being a “cheat of the planning system”.
He said: “They actually look to accumulate a certain acreage so it becomes a National Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) and bypasses the local planning system.”
NSIPs are decided by the government’s planning inspector instead of local planning authorities, though they can submit comments to the minister.
Sir Edward said: “Nobody is against solar farms, the point we’re making is that we want a proper planning process and we want local people to be involved.
“We fear it will go straight to a government planning inspector who will be working to national guidelines to create more solar energy and our concerns will be over-ridden.
“Surely WLDC, representing the people, should have the right to have a say and their say should be enforceable.”