Saturday, October 18, 2014

Solar farms 'blight on landscape'

Environment Secretary Liz Truss has said large-scale solar farms are 'a blight on the landscape' and confirmed plans to cut a taxpayer subsidy to farmers and landowners for the schemes.

She told the Mail on Sunday the land could be better used for growing food.

There is currently a £100-an-acre grant scheme in place, worth £2m a year.

Ms Truss said: 'I want Britain to lead the world in food and farming and to do that we need enough productive agricultural land.'

'Real problem'

'Start Quote

It's a big problem if we are using land that can be used to grow crops, fruit and vegetables'

End Quote Liz Truss Environment Secretary

She described the rows of solar panels as 'ugly', telling the newspaper: 'I'm very concerned that a lot of our land is being taken up with solar farms.

'We've already got 250 of them and we've got 10,000 football pitches worth of new solar farms in the pipeline.'

Many parts of Southern England have seen a boom in solar power generation in recent years.

The grants are currently made available through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from the European Union's Common Agriculture Policy.

Ms Truss said: 'Food and farming is our number one manufacturing industry, the whole food chain represents £100 billion in our economy, and it is a real problem if we are using productive agricultural land for solar farms.'

She added: 'I'm not against them per se - they're fine on commercial roofs and school roofs - but it's a big problem if we are using land that can be used to grow crops, fruit and vegetables.

'We import two-thirds of our apples, and using more land for solar panels makes it harder to improve that.'

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) announced plans to limit its support for large-scale solar farms earlier this year.

Subsidies under the existing 'renewables obligation' will end next April under the proposals.

Decc said large-scale solar developments had grown faster than expected and would exceed the budget for subsidies by £40 million over the next two years.

But campaigners and companies condemned the move, saying it would undermine confidence in the renewable sector.