Grass not Glass
We are in a major fight. With the growing number (and size) of solar farms encroaching on our landscape and productive farmland, we have taken on a hydra. Here in Devon, as elsewhere, a rash of huge solar farm applications is raining down on Local Planning Authorities.
In Mid Devon recently, we were part of a campaign that saw a solar giant refused. However the developer lodged an appeal, the Council decided not to contest the appeal, and we were left fighting on our own as the Rule 6 Party. The public inquiry began on 14th June 2022 and was held in Tiverton Town Hall. In Torridge, another was granted permission, but we are challenging that decision in law. The case will be heard at Bristol on 22nd June 2022. The law is expensive, but often the best resort: so we have set up a crowdfunding campaign to seek your help in enabling us to continue this vital work.
Devon’s world-beating farmland is under siege. The equivalent of 25 Devon farms have already been converted from food production to solar energy. More than 1000 further acres are ‘earmarked’.
Despite a strong campaign by us and local residents including actor John Nettles, the controversial application for a 164-acre site in the rural parish of Pyworthy near Holsworthy – which already has 5 solar farms – was passed by Torridge District Council in November.
But we are fighting back. Devon CPRE and Pyworthy residents are challenging the decision in the High Court, with the aim of ensuring that local planning authorities – right around the country – cannot ignore or override their own policies and landscape assessments in making these decisions.
We’ve already met initial success: Torridge District Council immediately conceded. The developer, global giant RES, continues to resist but we are optimistic that we have a strong case and can have this permission quashed. With two more large-scale solar farm applications currently in the Torridge planning system and others around the county, this could be a pivotal moment.
Legal challenges of this kind cost a lot of money, of course – typically up to £50,000. As a small Devon-based independent charity, we and local residents are fighting huge international companies with deep pockets and a passionate ambition to cover Devon with black glass.
That’s why we have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise a war chest for our campaign,’Grass not Glass’, which could have implications for rural communities all over the UK.
Anything you can give will help us in this David-and-Goliath battle. And if you would share this crowdfunding campaign far and wide with your family, friends and contacts who love Devon’s unique and captivating countryside, we will keep fighting to save it.
We need your help to enable us to draw a line in the sand, to stiffen the resolve of planning authorities to preserve the high-quality farmland which could be the biggest ‘carbon capture’ resource we possess.
Please donate, and please spread the word. Visit our crowdfunding page at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/devon-cpre
Solar Farms currently in planning are:
Land at Beavor Grange Farm, Axminster- reference 21/2992/MFUL – 69 acres. Permitted
Land adjacent to Peradon Farm, Clyst Hydon. Reference 21/3120/MFUL – 174 acres. Pending decision
Land at Marsh Green, Reference 22/0990/MFUL – 177 acres Pending decision
Land east of Rutton Farm, Whimple – 22/0783/MFUL – 174 acres. Pending decision
Coldharbour Farm Ashreigney Chulmleigh – reference 1/0823/2021/FULM – 147 acres Pending decision
Webbery Barton & Cleave Farm, nr Bideford – reference 1/1057/2021/FULM 156 acres Permitted
Langford, near Cullompton – at appeal – Public Inquiry, commencing 14th June 2022 150 acres.
What developers don’t tell you about solar farms
We campaign to stop huge solar developments swallowing up the county’s productive farmland. And here we explain why we oppose so-called renewable energy.
This month, June 2022, we will be taking part in two significant legal challenges against contested solar farms in this neck of the woods: a Public Inquiry on June 14th into Langford solar farm in Mid Devon, followed by a Judicial Review on June 22nd into the Derril Water site at Pyworthy near Holsworthy, which Torridge District Council approved despite overwhelming opposition from residents and parish councils.
Our small organisation is currently fighting a rash of solar farm proposals the length and breadth of our county, but these two planning applications could prove to be ‘test cases’ for many others in the future.
At a time of rising energy bills and the wider cost-of-living crisis, you might ask why Devon CPRE so vehemently opposes such developments? Renewable energy companies would have us believe that covering our farmland in solar panels is a good thing, a panacea for our problems, and people are often surprised that we – as an environmental charity – don’t support the uncontrolled rush to cover productive farmland with glass and metal. Surely, solar is ‘green’, they say. And produces cheap electricity. We beg to differ. Renewables aren’t all they’re made out to be, and here’s why.
For starters, there’s the issue of food security. If we carry on as we are, very soon we will no longer be able to produce enough home-grown food and will become increasingly reliant on imports – whatever the cost. This is about much more than our fields looking green and pretty. It’s about the very real risk of an ever-increasing reliance on food that’s travelled halfway around the world. If the Ukraine war has taught us anything, it’s that supplies of any commodity can’t be guaranteed and that reduced availability pushes up prices.
Energy companies like building solar on farmland. Why? Because it’s cheap, easy and lucrative. They would have us believe that the energy they produce is also cheap. Don’t be deluded by wishful thinking – it’s not the case. Put simply, solar and wind power are NOT, and never will be, stand-alone forms of electricity generation in this country. Every inch of Devon’s countryside could be covered in solar panels and wind turbines but – because they rely on the weather – they still wouldn’t supply a constant, reliable source of electricity. In fact, the more consumers rely on unpredictable renewables, the more they will pay for electricity. This is because controllable gas-fired power stations are needed to balance the grid 24/7 to keep supply matching demand. Nuclear power stations and gas-fired power stations all need to be available to operate on cold, dark and still winter days when wind and solar together produce negligible amounts of electricity.
Finally, what about the ethical considerations of an increasing reliance on solar farms? The uncomfortable truth is that solar panels contain all manner of toxic substances and are often produced using forced labour in China.
As we prepare to fight our corner and fight for Devon’s countryside this month in the courts of law, the company behind the Pyworthy scheme, Renewable Energy Systems Limited (RES), has submitted a fresh application for the site. This duplicate planning application seems to us a ‘cynical ploy’ to play both the planning and the legal system.
Make no mistake, decisions made now will set a precedent for the future of the solar industry in this country. Developers are only interested in profit – don’t take their claims at face value.