Local authorities must come up with their own planning guidelines to ensure valuable farmland is not lost to renewable energy developments, an MP has warned.

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Suffolk Coastal’s Dr Therese Coffey outlined her concerns during a Parliamentary debate.

Dr Coffey said in the debate she was increasingly worried about the amount of good grade farmland starting to be used for other purposes – particularly energy production.

The loss of land for agricultural use would lead to less produce being grown, forcing up prices and impacting on food security, she added.

“There have been speculative applications for solar farms on arable farmland,” she said. “Reducing the amount of good farmland will in turn reduce the supply of domestically produced food which can adversely impact food prices and reduce our food security.

“Both Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils should get on the front foot and devise their own supplementary planning guidance on renewable energy for their local plans so they can take a strategic look on the use of agricultural land.”

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal and Waveney said they had to follow Government guidelines and each application was judged on its individual merits. He said in the case of Suffolk Coastal its Core Strategy – which is set to be examined by a planning inspector over the coming weeks – followed national policy and therefore generally encouraged the generation of renewable energy, particularly where it will serve local communities, although they would seek to protect environmental assets.

“Unless and until our Core Strategy has been approved we cannot attempt to develop any new supplementary guidance on this issue or indeed any other issue,” he added. He said Waveney adopted a similar positive approach – subject to environmental considerations – and was currently preparing a Supplementary Planning Document to help in the implementation of this policy, which will shortly be subject to public consultation.

3 comments

  • The shocking plans made by Peterborough Council for 3,000 acres of prime productive Fenland farmland to disappear under solar panels should worry anyone who thinks food production should be prioritised over renewable energy, especially when we have no effective controls on energy waste in place.

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    Daisy Roots

    Friday, October 19, 2012

  • What a load of rot. Globally, the 2012 grain harvest was the third largest ever (following 2011 and 2008) and if it weren't for the amount going to into animal feed and biofuels there would be plenty to go round. Instead of whining about a few solar panels here and there, Coffey should maybe look at the bigger picture.

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    Betty Swallocks

    Friday, October 19, 2012

  • The food deficit is, depending on who you listen to, already 25% to 50% using 80% of our land mass for farming, so stopping using it for renewable energy or bio fuels isn't going to make up the massive shortfall, even if there were no buidlings, roads, houses, or even turbines, there is not enough land mass to provide all our own food for the population we have, we can't rape and decimate it any further. We would need to drain the North sea to be fully food secure, and yes even if we got shot of all the immigrants it would still be the case, we are about 50 million too many. Maybe they should be looking to take land away from some of the large land owners, one in Scotland was given over a million acres for sending us, his peasants, off to fight for the king, we need that land back now thanks very much. The Tonight program had their take on this aired blaming a lack of farmland due to too much building, then you can read in the EDP about tens of thousands of tonnes of wheat and corn being shipped to where the money is, China and India, which is pushing prices up that we can see in animal feeds but not in the supermarket as yet, but it is coming and it's already way to expensive to shop now. If there truly is a shortfall, as we know there is, why are farmers allowed to grow bio fuels at all, or ship all their food crop to another continent. Not sure if this MP is talking about bio fuels or wind power, but whatever it is, it is more complicated and the crux is the population size, which no MP will ever address as they wouldn't get voted in.

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    Jason Bunn

    Friday, October 19, 2012

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