North Yorkshire solar farms would cause 'carnage' say farmers

Tenant farmers say plans to sacrifice agricultural land in North Yorkshire to build huge solar farms would cause "carnage".

Robert Sturdy's family has been growing crops, including wheat, barley and oil seed rape, in fields near Malton since 1954.

But he and wife, Emma, are now fighting plans that would see around half the land given over to a solar farm powering just over 11,000 homes for up to 40 years.

The couple say the loss of the fields would remove around one million loaves of bread from the food chain.

Mrs Sturdy said: "It's just wrong. These fields are prime agricultural land, they grow good crops – it's good soil, it's too good for solar panels. We need solar, but we need solar in the right place."

The farm has been in the Sturdy family since 1954. Credit: Family photo

She added that they wanted to see legislation to protect agricultural land "so that developers and landowners cannot just cause complete carnage in the countryside".

Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake is backing the couple. He said he was supportive of efforts to expand renewable energy, but the crops grown by the Sturdys were part of a sustainable future too.

He said: "Im really supportive of solar, I'd put solar on every rooftop of Thirsk and Malton, every house, every commercial building, but I don't want to see it on productive commercial land, this is really good land, producing crops to feed the nation."

The plan would power 11,000 homes. Credit: Harmony Energy

The company behind the plan, Harmony Energy, said the Sturdys had been made "an attractive offer of compensation".

The firm said it would pay £100,000 a year in business rates and would put in place £10,000 a year in community benefit for the lifetime of the solar farm.

"The reason we have chosen this site, and we have gone into detail with public consultation on this, is because it's very close to the point of connection with the grid," said chief executive Peter Kavanagh.

"The UK grid is heavily constrained, you cannot put these solar farms anywhere and everywhere so we surveyed the land the surrounding area and chosen the lowest grade of land in the area.

"At the moment we have an energy crisis - bills have spiralled because we are not building sufficient cheap power generators. We can build solar and onshore wind without using a penny of taxpayers subsidy, which will contribute to lowering energy bills. It will also contribute to reducing climate change and meeting the UK’s net zero target."

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