Farmers will not be able to claim subsidies for fields filled with solar panels under new plans to protect land dedicated to growing crops and food. The new rulings will help rural communities who object to solar farms.
Britain has some of the best farmland in the world, especially in Lincolnshire and ministers want to see it protected to help boost our food and farming industry which is worth £97 billion to the country’s economy.
The change will come into effect from January 2015 and means that farmers will not be able to claim farm subsidy payments through the Common Agricultural Policy related to that land. It will save up to £2 million of taxpayers’ money and follows other government measures aimed at ending support for solar farms in agricultural fields. The Department for Energy and Climate Change recently announced that any new large scale solar farms will end next April and the Department for Communities and Local Government amended their planning rules to prevent any more farming land being used for solar installations.
There are currently 250 solar farms in England with the biggest covering 100 hectares. The new changes are aimed at halting the rapidly increasing solar farm applications which was due to reach over 1000 by the end of the decade. The changes will make it less financially beneficial to install these panels.
The decision is aiming to benefit the English food and farming industry as well as rural communities, the environment and wildlife.
Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss said:
English farmland is some of the best in the world and I want to see it dedicated to growing quality food and crops. I do not want to see its productive potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms. Farming is what our farms are for and it is what keeps our landscape beautiful.
I am committed to food production in this country and 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.