Government to add to pressure on solar PV to avoid agricultural land

‘Best and most versatile’ (BMV) agricultural land should be prioritised for food production and large solar projects avoid this higher quality land where possible, Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho told Parliament today. She said solar PV should be developed on brownfield land, contaminated land, industrial land and lower quality agricultural land “so as not to compromise the UK’s food security”.
She said a four-fold increase in solar deployment was expected by 2035, up to 70GW, but to reach that goal “solar to be delivered in a sensible way” including ensuring developers and planning authorities consider “the cumulative impact solar projects can have on local communities”.
She also announced plans to expand the Renewable Energy Planning Database to include up-to-date data on the type of land used by existing and planned solar projects, allowing government to track whether it involved high-quality agricultural land more easily.
Coutinho said: “I want to see more solar on rooftops and where that’s not possible, for agricultural land to be protected; and for the cumulative impact on local villages to be considered where they are facing a high number of solar farm applications.
“We will make sure we reach our solar targets in a sensible way that delivers clean, cheaper energy but does not compromise our food security”.
Halting the rollout of large solar PV has been a target for some MPs. In a 2022 debate (see below) Eddie Hughes, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said of the 70GW target: “what it categorically does not mean is seizing large swathes of countryside and turning them into industrial solar farms and storage units”. He promised to consult on amending planning rules in England to strengthen policy in favour of solar development on non-protected land. James Gray, Conservative MP for North Wiltshire, who started the 2022 debate, said that “TWe want significantly more solar power to be generated on brownfield sites and on buildings, and significantly less on fields. I would like to see it going to 70:30 or 80:20, or, come to that, 100% of solar farms being on reused land.”He added, “The reason why all these Members are in the Chamber today is because solar farm applications are being made in their constituencies. We do not want them to happen; we want them to stop.”
Further reading
Solar PV: 300MW-scale installations needed ‘in every local authority area’ and under-funded planning departments put all stakeholders at risk
MPs debate planning restrictions for solar farms, suggest they must be invisible

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