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Lincolnshire becoming “dumping ground” for solar farms – North Kesteven District council

Lincolnshire is becoming a “dumping ground” for excessively large solar farm developments that bypass local planning procedures, is is feared.

North Kesteven District Council will write to government ministers to highlight the issue, it can be revealed.

NKDC debated the issue of large scale solar developments in the Greater Lincolnshire region at Full Council on Thursday (January 25).

Is Lincolnshire becoming a dumping ground for solar farms?
Is Lincolnshire becoming a dumping ground for solar farms?

A total of 14 Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) applications have gone in for open countryside land in Greater Lincolnshire across the last 12 months, and councillors worry this could have a significant impact on the county’s proud agricultural sector.

A proposal by Lincolnshire Independents’ Coun Peter Overton requested the council seeks to limit NSIPs, particularly in the renewable energy sector, on agricultural land.

Within the proposal was a three-point motion, calling on North Kesteven District Council to write to the minister for energy and net zero, requesting a strategic approach for solar developments across the country.

North Kesteven District Council fear the county is becoming a solar farm dumping ground
North Kesteven District Council fear the county is becoming a solar farm dumping ground

It is hoped that this would help ensure agricultural areas like North Kesteven “do not become dumping grounds for excessive development.”

NSIPs are decided by government itself rather than through local planning committees, leaving councils with little say in final approval or rejection of larger solar developments.

The plan to use “undeveloped rural land” for the production of solar power is “an unsustainable change of use for the land” that is proving “damaging to our local agricultural and tourism economy,” according to Coun Overton.

Coun Colin Davie
Coun Colin Davie

He has called for a “full investigation of appropriate alternatives” before saying there is a perception of “confusion” between the “widely agreed necessity” of achieving net zero targets by 2030 — a pledge previously made by the council — and a “rush to solar power to achieve this target.”

“I believe this is the wrong thinking,” Coun Overton said. “All the available evidence suggests that it simply will not work. These solar developments will not come on-stream before the early 2030s.

“The payback before embedded carbon is repaid is likely to be a further seven to ten years, or indeed even longer if the main supplier of these panels, China, continues to use coal fired power stations for its energy.

Dr Caroline Johnson with PM Rishi Sunak
Dr Caroline Johnson with PM Rishi Sunak

“Trying to solve one environmental problem by creating another one is simply nonsense. At the very least, we should slow down this narrow solar ambition to make sure it has a positive, not negative, outcome.”

Coun Ian Carrington (Conservative) said “the notion that we should not be dumped” with solar farms on agricultural land in Lincolnshire is something “we can all support in this chamber.”

Point one of the motion, relating to writing to the energy minister for strategic overview, was passed by councillors, while point three, working with the county council to develop an energy strategy, was withdrawn — and point two was reworded to look at possible sequential testing in the planning process “if legally possible” rather than a confirmation of it happening.

While councillors presenting the motion claimed these developments were “excessive,” the evidence shows that very little of Greater Lincolnshire’s land would be used for solar energy, even if all 14 proposed developments go ahead.

Analysis of the size and scale of these NSIP solar developments on Lincolnshire’s agricultural land shows that just under 1.5% of the county’s land would be used to power more than every single home in Greater Lincolnshire.

In total, these 14 developments would generate some 4,829.895MW of energy across over 10,500 hectares of land, potentially powering around 1,332,600 homes in Greater Lincolnshire — which is some 200,000 more than the entire population of the region.

Here’s a comprehensive list of all the solar farms currently under consideration in Lincolnshire:

One Earth Solar Farm – south of Dunham on Trent and Newton on Trent – 740MW

Holbeach St Matthews Solar Farm – 49.9MW

Tillbridge Solar Farm – near Gainsborough and north west of Lincoln – 50MW

Hatton Solar Farm – outside of Horncastle – 50MW

Mallard Pass Solar Farm – along the Stamford and Rutland border – 350MW

Mallows Solar Farm – west of Mallows Lane and north of Pymoor Lane in Sibsey – 10MW

Springwell Solar Farm – near Blankney, Scopwick, and Ashby de la Launde – 800MW

Heckington Fen Solar Farm – outskirts of Sleaford – 500MW

Beacon Fen Energy Park – situated to the east of Ewerby and north of Heckington – 400MW

Cottam Solar Project – along the Lincolnshire-Nottinghamshire border – 600MW

West Burton Solar Project – south of Sturton by Stow and south east of Marton – 480MW

Bicker Fen Solar Farm – 49.995MW

Gate Burton Energy Park – Gainsborough – 500MW

Mareham Lane Solar Farm – between Scredington and Silk Willoughby – 50MW

However, with Greater Lincolnshire accounting for some 10% of the country’s agricultural output, councillors are concerned that solar developments could have an impact on our county’s ability to continue leading the way in this sector.

Coun Colin Davie, Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment at Lincolnshire County Council has previously said that Lincolnshire is “under a lot of pressure” from the 14 NSIP applications on its farmland.

He said some of the proposals could “alter permanently the landscapes of Lincolnshire.”

Local Members of Parliament are also keen to protect food production and farming heritage in Lincolnshire, namely Sleaford & North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson, who met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this week to share resident concerns over recent NSIP applications in her constituency.

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The PM pledged not to allow “great swathes” of solar farms to occupy the nation’s farmland, including here in Lincolnshire.

Dr Johnson will meet with more policymakers next week to further present Lincolnshire’s case against the widespread use of its farmlands in exchange for solar farms.

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