The issue of whether solar panels in Lincolnshire should be installed on rooftops rather than farmland has caused much debate. Local politicians on both sides, as well as the Prime Minister, have weighed in on the issue after a survey was published by a local MP – and there have been calls for a public debate on how land is used.
A large solar farm named Beacon Fen Energy Park is provisionally set to be constructed on land north of Heckington and immediately to the east to Ewerby Thorpe. Beacon Fen is not the only energy park currently proposed. Within Sleaford and North Hykeham constituency there are four NSIP projects: Springwell, Fosse Green, Beacon Fen and Heckington Fen.
The Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, Dr Caroline Johnson, has conducted a survey which was sent out to residents in affected areas. So far, more than a thousand responses have been received by the MP from constituents, with more still coming in, expressing their views on the four projects.
Last week, Dr Johnson met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to convey concerns from residents regarding the scale of current large solar farm proposals. Rishi Sunak, who pledged last year to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves and enable a new round of intensive North Sea drilling, “will not allow great swathes of British countryside to be taken up by solar panels” according to Dr Johnson.
She said: “I am grateful to the PM for the opportunity to meet with him about this issue which is affecting large amounts of my constituency. I showed him the findings from my solar farm survey so far, which demonstrates an overwhelming majority of constituents are concerned about food production and industrialisation of the landscape and believe rooftop solar is far preferable.
“I explained how retaining agricultural land in Lincolnshire is of paramount importance for food security and how we must ensure that energy companies are not able to industrialise our farmland. I maintained how many residents are supportive of solutions including using industrial roof space and brownfield sites instead.
“I am asking constituents to continue to let me know their thoughts on the matter as I work to ensure that their views are heard.”
Sleaford politicians on the left are broadly in agreement over the farming land, although they were more enthusiastic about renewable energy in general. Paul Edwards-Shea, secretary of Sleaford and North Hykeham Labour Party, said: “In Lincolnshire we’ve got everything we need for renewable energy: we’ve got coastline, we’ve got sky and we’ve got land – ideal for wind, wave and solar energy generation.
“However Lincolnshire is also a county that feeds the nation. What we have not had is a public debate on the way we want the land to be used.
“The Labour Party is very pro renewable energy generation, but we also want our farmers to have a thriving industry in Lincolnshire, and we want to go on feeding the nation. In the Sleaford and North Hykeham constituency there are many people employed in food processing industries. It’s important that we protect those jobs.”