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General Election candidates in Grantham and Bourne, Rutland and Stamford and South Holland and the Deepings give their views on solar farms

The issue of solar farms - and where to put them - is a long-running debate across Lincolnshire, with communities facing the prospect of a number of large-scale developments.

As a result, our readers were keen to quiz the General Election candidates on their views, posing the following question:

There are a lot of major solar farm applications for agricultural land across this area and beyond. What should be done about these - and tackling climate change in general?

The answers appear below for candidates in three of the constituencies that represent readers for the print titles that power LincsOnline — the Grantham Journal, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian.

Scroll up and down to see what the contenders say in the Grantham and Bourne, Rutland and Stamford and South Holland and The Deepings seats — and let us know your views in the comments below.

The candidates for the Grantham and Bourne constituency in the 2024 General Election
The candidates for the Grantham and Bourne constituency in the 2024 General Election

Grantham and Bourne

Gareth Davies (Conservative)

We are privileged to live in an area of great natural beauty, which must be protected for future generations to enjoy.

Since 2019 I have worked at every opportunity to raise the concerns of local residents in response to developments where the cost to our countryside risks outweighing the benefit to our communities. This has involved collaborating with local campaign groups, contributing to consultations, highlighting issues in Parliament, and meeting with Government Ministers.

Most recently, working together with Lincolnshire colleagues, we were successful in getting the Government to update its planning guidance for solar farms so that high quality agricultural land would be respected, concentrated development in certain areas such as Lincolnshire would be avoided, and rooftop solar would be prioritised wherever possible.

I will keep pushing for this more balanced approach, and always stand up for our rural communities to preserve their unique character and ensure their voice is heard.

More broadly, the UK has reduced its carbon emissions by more than any other G7 country, and that electricity generated from renewables in the UK has increased from 7% in 2010 to now exceed 50%.

We are doing our part, so people shouldn’t be penalised with costly obligations to change their car or their boiler. As politicians, we need to create the right conditions and encourage technological advancements to make climate-friendly options common-sense choices.

Anne Gayfer (Green)

The Green Party has a Land Use Framework. Underpinning this is a detailed examination of society’s priorities. We prioritise nature because the Conservative government signed up to a UN commitment to protect 30% of our land and seas for nature by 2030 and they have not really thought about how to do this.

Next we prioritise using land to absorb carbon and to produce food. Energy comes behind this. I feel very strongly therefore as part of the mix, that our land should be used to feed us and to to absorb carbon, which happily are compatible with each other if one farms in a nature-sensitive way. Solar panels should be mandatory on all new build, subsidies should enable people to put them on existing roofs and places like carparks and municipal buildings are quick wins.

Building large scale solar on farm land is purely a financial gain for companies and often there isn’t even a grid connection because the state of our national grid cannot take the input. I am against solar farms therefore. Tackling climate change in general - we have a huge interlocking set of policies from social care to drugs, from marine & coastal to peace security and defence all targeted with tackling our security in a changing climate.

Alexander Mitchell (Social Democrat)

Under the SDP, planning consent will not be granted for solar farms on agricultural land. On the other hand, subsidies will be available for solar panel installations on existing commercial and residential buildings.

We will re-nationalise electricity generation and distribution, enabling the state to properly oversee the country's energy mix to achieve the best balance of cost, reliability and carbon-emissions. The latter will be cut in part by increasing the contribution of nuclear power in the UK from 12% to 40%, with a fleet of new nuclear power stations. Planning laws for the construction of these will be streamlined.

The SDP accepts the broad scientific consensus that fossil fuels are contributing to climate change and that we need to reduce our aggregate usage of them; however, we do not support unrealistic objectives such as “Net Zero” which lead to an unbalanced and costly energy regime in the UK without materially impacting global warming.

Expenditure on heat pumps, insulation, household solar panel systems and double/triple glazing by registered suppliers will be tax deductible at the basic rate.

Research into battery technology, hydrogen, nuclear energy, tidal, and low-energy transport will be supported by £4 billion of additional funding.

Mike Rudkin (Reform UK)

From my background in meteorology I find it frustrating that our governments and councils have called a climate emergency. A rare trace gas in our atmosphere which only comprises 0.0038% of it’s entirety is not responsible for climate variation. Perhaps the most active greenhouse gas is in fact water vapour, but you cannot tax that!

The earth formed around 4.6 Billion years ago, and since the very first day our climate has continually changed. The evidence suggests that any CO2 increase is as a result of climate warming, not the cause.

Then there are the methods of measurement of our climate, and the quality of the observations.

A recent official document has found that the vast majority of the Met Office’s own methods of measurement are well below the standard required for climate analysis (A should you really measure air temperature among buildings and in close proximity to jet aircraft or motorways? Should you rely on a satellite zipping along at high speed, “interpreting” temperature at the surface? Should you present your readings on maps using bright yellow and red colour mapping to emphasize the heat?).

And just think how warm it (apparently) was during our spring months and indeed now, in the middle of summer!

We must start questioning, and not just accepting the figures. I don’t accept their accuracy at all.

The Met Office gradually eliminated all their long serving and experienced observing staff from 2002 to 2012. I know this, I was there… as a senior forecaster and RAF Office Manager.

Nowadays most observations are automated, with minimal human input by forecasters when they happen to be on duty at their station. Imagine a forecaster doing observations whilst working under performance related pay! What could possibly go wrong?

Solar farms are the modern day virtue signalling blight on our landscapes and the destroyers of valuable farm land. They don’t do the work they are quoted as doing, they only give half decent output for a small percentage of the year, they kill and destroy environments, they damage wildlife, they cause rapid run-off of rainfall (thus exacerbating flooding and soil erosion), they destroy agricultural jobs and they are totally unnecessary. Need I say more? OK then, they are made in China, have to be brought over here, don’t have more than a 7 year life span in reality (have to be continually replaced) and are not recyclable!

Ian Selby (Independent)

I strongly urge concerned residents to express their view during the consultation of the forthcoming district council’s local plan. That’s your opportunity to air your views to help protect local land for food farming.

As the Chairman of the District Council’s Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, I am passionate about pushing a strong local agenda on the environment to find a balance between renewable energy needs and agricultural needs. I’ve encouraged our committee to do this without party political bias, and instead do it for all the right reasons. Put party politics to one side for the benefit of future generations. Our council have declared a Climate Emergency and asked our MP to support the Climate Change Bill. International agreements must be kept.

John Vincent (Liberal Democrat)

Climate change is real. Action must be taken. Creating renewable energy sources is a priority. Large scale solar farms should not be placed on prime agricultural land. Multi-purpose land use is possible on some sites. The UK needs a mix of wind, solar and nuclear to decarbonise our energy supply. Tidal and wave power, if we can. And we must use energy better. Insulate our homes. Use technology to cut down waste. We need to transition faster.

The candidates standing in the Rutland and Stamford constituency in the 2024 General Election
The candidates standing in the Rutland and Stamford constituency in the 2024 General Election

Rutland and Stamford

Emma Baker (Green)

Right idea, wrong location. Planning laws need to be challenged and this includes for major infrastructure projects. Across the world we are seeing innovative solutions to solar generated power. My favourite, at the moment, is over car parks. I will oppose solar farms on the best and most versatile agricultural land. Green Party policy is to put solar panels on all new build roofs.

As the Green Party, we really are the only party that are 100% committed to tackling climate change. Our manifesto indicates our want to accelerate our 2050 net zero target by at least 10 years. This is essential. We are already seeing “once in 100 year events” happening with

alarming frequency. The impact of the January flooding has left houses, businesses and farmers in devastation. To do this we intend to phase out fossil fuels whilst accelerating investment and delivery of clean energy.

Christopher Clowes (Reform UK)

The push for renewable energy has seen a surge in the construction of solar farms, but not all locations are suitable for such developments. The Mallard Pass solar farm on the Rutland Lincolnshire border, for example, illustrates the significant drawbacks of placing solar panels on farmland.

Mallard Pass is set to occupy vast swathes of agricultural land. This transformation of fertile farmland into an industrial solar array poses a threat to the local ecosystem. Farmland provides essential services, such as producing food and sustaining biodiversity. When agricultural land is repurposed for solar farms, it disrupts the natural habitat, displacing wildlife and diminishing the ecological value of the area.

Agricultural land is not just a source of food; it also provides livelihoods. The Mallard Pass project has raised concerns among local communities about job losses. Farmers and workers in the agricultural sector stand to lose their jobs as farmland is taken out of production. The economic ripple effect can lead to decreased local spending, impacting other businesses and services in the community.

A more sustainable approach would be to install solar panels on existing buildings. Rooftop solar installations maximize the use of already developed land, preserving farmland for its primary purpose: food production. Urban and suburban areas have an abundance of rooftops and other structures that are underutilized. These spaces are ideal for solar panels and can generate significant amounts of electricity without compromising agricultural productivity.

The case of the Mallard Pass solar farm highlights the need for thoughtful consideration of where to place renewable energy infrastructure. While the transition to renewable energy is crucial, it should not come at the cost of food security and local economies. Solar panels belong on buildings, not on valuable farmland that provides food and jobs. By prioritizing rooftop solar installations, we can protect agricultural land, support local economies, and still advance towards a greener future.

Alicia Kearns (Conservative)

Protecting our farmland and best agricultural land from excessive solar development is vital to ensure our food security. In May, after three years’ of campaigning, I secured national protections for agricultural land from solar developments, guidance for more solar on roofs, and for farmland to be at the centre of planning decisions.

I have also campaigned relentlessly to take a stand against the proposed 2,105 acre Mallard Pass Solar Plant across Rutland and Stamford, which would be built on high quality agricultural land. Working with the Mallard Pass Action Group, we have secured 3,414 local petition signatures, raised concerns with Ministers, held public meetings, exposed Canadian Solar’s links to forced slave labour, Windell Energy’s financial dealings, and their shared consultation failings.

During my time as MP for Rutland and Melton, I ensured the Government invested more in wind energy, hydrogen and nuclear, for example I worked to change laws so wind turbines can be built onshore again, as these are the right energy mixes for our country and are far more productive than solar given our climate. We all want to play our part in achieving Net Zero and tackling climate change, however this needs to be done in the right way, by investing in clean energy and building solar on roofs, not on our best and most versatile farmland.

James Moore (Liberal Democrats)

Solar farms should not be built on high-quality agricultural land. We need to support food producers and our agricultural economy. Solar has an important role to play in tackling climate change, but solar panels are best placed on buildings, not in highly-productive fields. Liberal Democrats support the expansion of solar power on domestic and industrial premises and believe more government support should be provided to develop these initiatives.

Joe Wood (Labour)

I advocate for hosting communities to receive financial benefits from any development. I believe that solar and wind energy should be part of our energy mix for national security and cost reasons. Labour will prioritise the delayed development of the National Grid to allow renewable energy sites to be located more selectively, addressing the current lack of suitable grid connections which result in unsustainable and unwanted proposals like Mallard Pass which I strongly oppose. Farmland should be used for farming and nature. I will also push for innovative approaches, such as utilising warehousing for hosting solar panels instead of using agricultural land.

Other candidates: Joanna Burrows (Rejoin EU).

South Holland and the Deepings contenders. Clockwise, from top left, are Mark Le Sage, Jack Braginton, Paul Hilliar, Matt Swainson, Rhys Baker and Sir John Hayes
South Holland and the Deepings contenders. Clockwise, from top left, are Mark Le Sage, Jack Braginton, Paul Hilliar, Matt Swainson, Rhys Baker and Sir John Hayes

South Holland and the Deepings

Rhys Baker (Green)

I want to see a solar panel on the roof of every new-build home. This will lower bills for residents, decentralise our energy sector, and keep solar panels off the best-grade farmland. We have acres and acres of car parks, as well as school, hospital and government building rooftops that can be used instead. I am opposed to the urbanisation of our countryside, not just with solar panels but with the associated electrical infrastructure like substations and pylons. The greens want to see these placed offshore.

We need massive investment in addressing climate change, which offers fantastic opportunities for a fair energy transition. We need to insulate our homes -another investment that brings ordinary people’s bills down. We need to invest in skills and training to prepare workers for the new roles they can take on. We must learn the lessons of the 1980s when coal and heavy industry were decimated. The green transition should increase employment with high-paid jobs, not gut communities. We will see wind provide around 70% of our electricity by 2030. We will bring trains back into public ownership to reinvest profits in better, more regular, more affordable services rather than padding foreign hedge fund profits. We will improve bus services, cycleways and footpaths.

These initiatives will make us richer, happier, and healthier, and as an added bonus, they will address climate change as well.

Jack Braginton (Liberal Democrat)

Climate change is a serious issue, and we believe that setting out an industrial strategy to incentivise the growth of green industry will play the greatest role in tackling this issue, as well as bringing long term security and well paying jobs to the UK. On the specific issue of solar farms on agricultural land, I stand opposed to such developments. That the Conservatives have made it more profitable for farmers to put solar farms on their land rather than use it for produce is, frankly, a betrayal of our agricultural industries. Traditional, family farms are the custodians of our environment, and that is precisely who the Liberal Democrats are standing up for.

John Hayes (Conservative)

Compromising food security by building large scale solar installations on prime agricultural land is simply not right. Given our area produces so much of the food that feeds Britain, recognising that food security is as important as energy security is vital.

Earlier this year I personally surveyed many people who live close to proposed huge solar sites, with over 94% of respondents telling me that, rather than large solar development on farmland, industrial buildings or roof tops should be the place for them.

Responding to my campaign, the Conservative Government recently announced steps to protect our farmland from huge solar developments, making clear that the best and most versatile agricultural land should not be used, and that solar developers must also have “consideration for ongoing food production.”

The commitment to clean energy is important, but the development this entails, be it solar or wind turbines, should only take place with the consent of people who live close by, and never where the cost in terms of wellbeing is greater than any value they bring.

Paul Hilliar (Labour)

Food security is national security. I don't want to see swathes of productive farmland taken out of action. I agree with the Secretary of State, Claire Coutinho, when she says, 'that applicants should seek to minimise impacts on the best and most versatile agricultural land (defined as land in grades 1, 2 and 3a of the Agricultural Land Classification) and preferably use land in areas of poorer quality.'

All this said, the Climate Crisis is the biggest issue we face and we as a nation will need to accommodate projects like this along with other renewable projects if we are to give our children and grandchildren a safe future. For too long, farmers have been left confused about what they should prioritise so Labour will introduce a land-use framework to provide guidance on these developments.

Mark Le Sage (Independent)

Using green energy generation to combat climate change should be a priority for all of us, regardless of political affiliation.

Here in south Lincolnshire, we need to firstly financially support our local farmers to continue in growing crops that feed Britain.

When a connection node to the grid is built in the heart of our fertile land & it’s more profitable to install solar than grow crops, our government is dictating where these applications are placed.

However, where local generation is possible, these should be connected inconspicuously to the grid, avoiding pylons at all costs.

Matthew Swainson (Reform UK)

I am of the view that Food and Energy resilience are among the top responsibilities of governments – the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Food, Shelter, Warmth.

Placing solar panels on productive farmland fails both tests. Solar is not a reliable source of energy in a country such as Britain. Great for houses and factories with battery storage, no good for grid-level generation.

Placing solar panels on farmland substantially diminishes our ability to feed ourselves from our own land, and exposes the most vulnerable amongst us to price shocks on imported food – as we have seen over the past two years.

Sustainability and resilience are key.

In terms of climate change, I think that adapting to it is likely to yield fruit more quickly than trying to resist it: I believe that we should tread as lightly as possible on the face of the earth, however, it is a massive, complex system whose heat energy at the surface derives - as everyone who has ever been outside knows - largely from the sun. The sun is not within our control, so it seems quixotic to try to control the earth’s temperature.

What do you think? Let us know your views in the comments below…

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