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Solar farm expansion plans in UK under fire as farmers forced off their land
By Cassie B. // May 31, 2024

Some UK farmers are being pushed off of their land as the misguided quest for more solar power presses forward in Britain.

This is according to the former head of the UK’s farming union, who called attention to the many drawbacks of large-scale solar farms in the country.

Minette Batters, who once served as the National Farmers’ Union president, recounted “horrific examples” of tenant farmers being kicked off their land so landowners can rake in more money via solar power initiatives. She warned that investors, including those from overseas and private equity firms, are buying up a significant proportion of Britain’s rural landscape.

Batters is calling on the country’s next government to draw up a new land strategy that protects traditional farming and acknowledges its economic value for the UK. The influx of new solar farms is coming at a time when arable and dairy farming are facing a bleak future.

“We are a country up for sale. We are selling off land to people who don't pay their taxes here. It does have to change,” she said.

Although she is unhappy with the way solar farms are taking over traditional farmland, she said she did have some sympathy for farmers who have been cashing in on these projects because it does provide them with a guaranteed income.

She said: “You can understand at the moment, from a farmer's perspective... £1,200 a hectare (per year), index-linked, locked in for 20 years, what's not to like? For everybody else, there's a huge amount not to like. This is the trouble with a solar farm. There will be one beneficiary.”

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Solar farms are taking over the UK

There are already 500 solar farms in the UK, with the biggest spanning 250 acres in Flintshire, North Wales. A new one that is currently being planned for three sites in Oxfordshire will cover nearly four square miles, or 2,471 acres, while a 2500-acre solar farm has been proposed near the Cambridgeshire-Suffolk border.

Campaigners fighting a “titanic” Wiltshire County solar farm recently made some inroads by convincing local councilors to ask the government to ensure solar farms are distributed in a more even manner throughout the UK.

Developers are seeking to build solar panels across 2,000 acres of farmland in Wiltshire to power around 115,000 homes. However, many area residents are strongly opposed to the plan, and a petition attracted signatures from 17,000 objectors. Many are troubled by the fact that the county already has many more solar farms than other parts of the UK.

Former Planning Inspectorate CEO Sir Michael Pitt said: "We believe the development is the most damaging assault on the county's landscape in more than a lifetime. To call it a farm is an aberration. It is a vast industrial complex with battery storage, transformers and ugly solar cells some 4.5 metres high."

Some farmers being forced to give up their land for solar farms

One particularly disturbing effect of solar initiatives is the fact that farmers who lease their land from larger land owners are sometimes being forced to abandon their farms to make way for a solar farm.

Batters believes that one good solution would be for governments to promote installing solar panels on rooftops instead of on land.

“The Conservatives know how divisive this (solar) is. You saw Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss saying we're going to stop putting solar on land and put it on rooftops.

"Farmers ought to be able to provide (electricity from) solar and wind turbines - solar on rooftops. I really hope Labour (implements this)... with their plans for GB Energy,” she added.

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