Langford Solar Farm, Mid Devon – Public Inquiry begins. 14th June 2022

As the Langford solar farm Public Inquiry begins, Devon CPRE says the government needs to make up its mind – more solar farms or greater food security and self-sufficiency?

As a four-day Public Inquiry (14 – 17 June) has begun into the contested solar farm and battery storage facility at Langford, near Cullompton, we think that the government needs to decide its priorities – greater food self-sufficiency or more solar farms on agricultural land?

At the weekend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to support ‘great British farming’ and ‘back farmers’. Devon CPRE says this newly announced food strategy is at odds with the recently announced energy policy, which encourages the development of more solar farms on green fields.

Devon CPRE Director Penny Mills says, “The government shows a complete lack of joined-up thinking. Over the weekend, Boris Johnson said he wanted to back farmers to produce more food and lessen our reliance on imports. We’ve been saying for a long time that this is the right thing to do, as shown by the Ukraine crisis, and here in Devon we have some of the best farmland in the world. Yet just a few weeks ago the government announced its energy policy which encourages solar farms. You can’t produce food on fields covered in glass and metal. It’s time to decide. What do they really want?”

The Langford solar farm Public Inquiry has begun at Tiverton Town Hall after the developer JBM Solar and its agent Pegasus appealed Mid Devon District Council’s decision to refuse planning consent. We were due to take part in the hearing as a Rule 6 Party, effectively a third party to the proceedings to give evidence in support of the Council’s decision not to grant planning consent.

However, our small independent charity now finds itself squaring up to the might of the developer on its own after the local authority unexpectedly decided in April not to defend its decision.

No longer a supporting player, but right in the front line, our energy spokesman Dr Phil Bratby has spent months preparing his Statement of Case and Proof of Evidence, a large and meticulously-researched body of work. Phil says: “Every one of these 160-acre solar utilities, with its huge battery storage containers, takes the equivalent of a whole average-sized farm out of food production.

“Devon is one of the best landscapes in the world for mixed livestock and arable farming, on small-scale holdings of the kind that can be used to both capture carbon and feed a population increasingly dependent on locally-produced food. Covering Devon’s countryside in highly inefficient glass panels often made by forced labour in China is a terrible waste of our natural resources, and a disaster for our precious and economically vital rural landscapes.”

This appeal has been called to the Secretary of State, which means that following the inquiry, the Planning Inspector will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State who will make the decision whether to allow the appeal or dismiss the appeal and thereby refuse planning permission.