Solar farms ‘blight’ on the countryside says Liz Truss but landowners’ association believes she is ‘misguided’

A solar farm is planned near St Neots

A solar farm is planned near St Neots - Credit: Archant

Environment Secretary and South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss has hit out at large-scale solar farms calling them a “blight” on the countryside as she announced plans to axe a subsidy for the schemes.

She promised to end grants worth £2million a year which are available from her department.

The change, which will come into effect from January 2015, will mean that farmers who choose to use fields for solar panels will not be eligible for any farm subsidy payments available through the Common Agricultural Policy for that land.

Ms Truss said: “It makes my heart sink to see row upon row of solar panels where once there was a field of wheat or grassland for livestock to graze.

“That is why I am scrapping farming subsidies for solar fields.

“Solar panels are best placed on the 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops where they will not compromise the success of our agricultural industry.”

The new comes as Europe’s largest solar energy park – that would have swallowed up 900 acres of farmland in the Fens- has been scrapped.

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Peterborough City Council spent two years – and £3million- pushing the plans forward and had predicted profits of up to £7million a year.

Land at Morris Fen, Thorney and at Newborough would have been used for the solar farm with tenants of council owned farms forced to surrender their leases.

Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said it would have meant the construction of 500,000 glass panels “the size of 700 football pitches on some of the most fertile land in England”.

And during a House of Commons debate a year ago Steve Barclay, the MP for NE Cambs, felt the scheme “does not look like value for money for the taxpayer”.

But the CLA, which represents landowners, farms and rural businesses, has said comments made by Environment Secretary Liz Truss about solar farms are “misguided”.

CLA President Henry Robinson said: “Ms Truss’s comments about solar panels taking land out of food production are misguided and show a clear lack of understanding. Land in the UK has always been used for more than just food production and must continue to be so. The UK must make better use of unused roof space for solar power but this should not be to the exclusion of ground-mounted systems.

On November 12 the CLA plan an exhibition on renewables at a farm near Newmarket.

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