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Lincolnshire at risk of becoming solar ‘dumping ground’ as 14 farm applications progress

Fears that Lincolnshire could become a “dumping ground” for solar farms are growing after 14 applications were submitted over the past year. Councillors are concerned these projects could have a significant impact on the county’s agricultural sector and have called for the number of renewable energy schemes on farmland to be limited.

However, analysis suggests that only 1.5 per cent of Lincolnshire’s land would be used if all 14 sites were developed fully – and they would be capable of powering every home in the county. According to Cllr Peter Overton, 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”.

He said there was some 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”. He added: “I believe this is the wrong thinking. All the available evidence suggests that it simply will not work. These solar developments will not come on-stream before the early 2030s.

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“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. 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.”

With Lincolnshire accounting for 10 per cent of the UK’s agricultural output, Cllr Ian Carrington said “not being dumped” with solar farms on agricultural land in Lincolnshire was something all councillors could support.

Cllr Colin Davie, who oversees energy and environment at Lincolnshire County Council, previously said the county 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”.

Proponents of social energy have said the 14 farms would generate some 4,829MW of energy, which could potentially power around 1,332,600 homes in Lincolnshire — 200,000 more than the entire population of the region. Despite their ruminations, local authorities typically have little say in the large-scale schemes as they are decided by the Government.

Following the meeting, North Kesteven District Council officials will write to energy minister Graham Stuart to ensure agricultural areas like North Kesteven “do not become dumping grounds for excessive development”. Sleaford & North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson recently met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to share resident concerns over recent NSIP applications in her constituency.

The PM pledged not to allow “great swathes” of solar farms to occupy the nation’s farmland, including here in Lincolnshire. The following solar farms are currently under consideration for 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 – between the villages of Heckington and Helpringham – 600MW
  • 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

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