Pyworthy Solar Farm Permitted – 4th November 2021

Close vote permits 164-acre solar farm in northwest Devon

By a narrow margin of five votes to four, Torridge District Council’s Planning Committee has today granted permission for the development of a massive solar farm on green fields, near a village which is already surrounded by several other solar farms.

We supported the 213 residents of Pyworthy and two parish councils who objected to the industrial-scale development across four parcels of land over 28 fields.

Devon CPRE Trustee Steve Crowther was one of two representatives of the opposition allowed to address councillors during this morning’s meeting. He argued that the scheme should be refused on the grounds that food production is the best use of Devon’s rich pasture land – 40% of the site is best and most versatile land (BMV) – and that the array of nearly 76,000 glass panels, combined with the existing solar farms in the vicinity, would have a devastating impact on the landscape and on local people.

Following a 2-hour debate, four councillors were swayed by the reasons not to grant planning permission for the Derril Water solar farm, but five voted in line with the recommendations of their planning officer to approve the proposals by RES.

Speaking after the vote, Steve said, “It’s very disappointing that a margin of just one vote means yet another swathe of Devon’s agricultural land will become glass instead of grass. We’re talking about good-quality farmland and nature has already given us the best means of converting the sun’s energy – to produce nutritious food. Councillors may think they’re doing the best thing for the planet by granting permission for these massive solar farms on green fields, but they are misguided. We won’t give up trying to get this message across.

“There’s also the issue of how and where these panels are produced and the toxic materials they contain, which can leach into the soil over time. Most solar panels are manufactured in China, often using forced labour. What’s green or ethical about transporting them across the world and installing products made by enslaved workers on Devon soil?”

Devon CPRE Director Penny Mills added, “Over four thousand acres of Devon farmland have already been developed for solar farms and plans for several other massive solar installations – two of them in Torridge – are yet to be decided. How many more hundreds of acres of productive farmland is Torridge prepared to sacrifice? The developer RES claims it will actually increase biodiversity around such schemes, by putting up bird and bat boxes! We’d like to see them substantiate this kind of claim with proper evidence. Its a sad day for Devon’s countryside and for the residents of Pyworthy who won’t benefit from this scheme – the only people who will benefit are the huge out of town developer, the land owner and the council from the massive annual business rate payment!”