23 OCT 2015

Solar farms on agricultural land

Kent Messenger Column 23-10-15

In 2010 I made a pledge to the people of Maidstone & The Weald to do all I could to protect our precious countryside from inappropriate planning proposals. It was a promise I repeated in the 2015 General Election and I am proud of my record, publicly opposing certain housing schemes and some commercial developments.

There are, of course, occasions when exceptional circumstances and economic arguments win the day, especially where contained development can preserve and create the jobs we need for the growth of the local economy.

However, there is one form of commercial green-field development that fails to win any such arguments in my book, and that is the placing of solar farms on Wealden agricultural land.

I am a supporter of renewable energy technologies and solar panels have their place, but not on the green fields of Kent. There are an estimated 250,000 acres of south facing roofs in the UK residential sector alone, not to mention a veritable sea of unused space on the roofs of commercial warehouses and other large buildings. In France they even use supermarket car parks; shade for cars and shoppers plus renewable energy from the panels – lovely solution.

Agricultural solar installations effectively turn green fields into brown, to the detriment of our legacy for our children and theirs. In Maidstone & The Weald there are several applications looming; Widehurst Farm in Marden, Great Pagehurst in Staplehurst and another in Frittenden. The government no longer supports such schemes and will be reducing the subsidies that make them so commercially attractive very shortly – thus the rush to beat the cut.

I make no bones about continuing to do my level best to persuade the proponents of these schemes to find alternative locations away from our rural heritage. If you live near one of the above locations I would welcome your views.

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