ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY Liz Truss has called solar farms “a blight on the landscape” and revealed plans to cut subsidies under new plans to ensure more land is dedicated to food production.
The controversial plans have come under fire from groups accusing the minister of trying to ‘woo UKIP voters while green campaigners have expressed disappointment in the ‘attack on renewables’.
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.
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 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.”
The changes the government is making are expected to slow down the growth of solar farms in the countryside in England. There are currently 250 installed, with the biggest covering as much as 100 hectares. Under previous plans, the number of fields dedicated to solar farms was set to increase rapidly, with over 1,000 ground-based solar farms expected by the end of the decade across the UK.
Alasdair Cameron, a Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: “It’s very unfortunate that the minister seems to be taking the same approach to the environment as Owen Paterson. This solar farm [reversal] is quite a contrast from fracking, where the Government is willing to change the law to allow it to happen under people’s homes. This is more to do with ideology than energy policy. The Tories are playing to the UKIP audience.”