Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Government pulls plug on solar subsidies for farms

Evidence that politicians are thinking about the General Election just around the corner can be seen in the Government announcement that from next January agricultural subsidies for farmers who allow solar panels in their fields are to be scrapped.

In what is a fairly transparent attempt to respond to UKIP’s opposition to solar farms, agricultural subsidies for solar farms will be scrapped to stop the English countryside from apparently being 'blighted by solar farms', according to the Department for the Energy, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

From next January, farmers who allow solar panels in their fields will no longer be eligible for any farm subsidy payments available through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy for that land.

Defra is now demanding more agricultural land be dedicated to agriculture and is also seeking to help rural communities which do not want their countryside blighted by solar farms, proposing that solar panels are instead placed on south-facing commercial rooftops. It estimates the change to the subsidy regime would save £2 million per year.

However, having worked with the National Farmers Union, the Solar Trade Association has suggested there remains plenty of space for continued agricultural practices such as sheep or poultry farming as the fixings constitute only five per cent of the land. 

• The announcement coincides with news that Swale-based GH Dean has secured permission for an 18MW solar farm on agricultural land near Sittingbourne, after engaging with the local community. GH Dean was advised by planners URS and Maxim, the Tunbridge Wells-based PR and public affairs agency.

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