Saturday, April 02, 2022

A solar farm in Badley? Competing pressures for self-sufficiency...

Whilst Creeting St Peter has had its own planning issues over the past few years, the one thing we haven't had is an application for a solar farm. But now, whilst we don't, the parish across the River Gipping, Badley, does.

There is a dilemma here. The proposed site requires the loss of prime agricultural land - we've got a lot of that here on the East Anglian prairie - and at a time when self-sufficiency in food is a live topic of discussion, one does wonder how the loss of farmland helps that. But the war in Ukraine reminds us that dependency on hydrocarbons from authoritarian states who aren't necessarily our friends is problematic too, before you even start on climate change mitigation.

And, whilst the gently rolling fields of Suffolk are superb for wheat, barley and other grains, they also make for easy to maintain solar arrays. If you're a farmer, with the prospects of a downward squeeze on agricultural support payments and the knowledge that selling land for development is likely to be lucrative, especially if your land is near a town or village earmarked for housing development, point you in one direction and one direction only.

The rural economy is changing and whilst people may want farmers to produce food as cheaply as possible and in sufficient quantity, farmers aren't altruists - they need to make a living too, otherwise why do it?

My perspective is a fairly neutral one but I do find myself wondering how, at a time when fuel poverty is becoming a big thing in this country, we can carry on resisting renewables development in our localities. Wind turbines are apparently too big, solar arrays too ugly, and whilst offshore wind is growing nicely, the Government has failed to support tidal energy and encourages rural communities to object to anything that might impact on their local countryside.

There needs to be one of two things, a plan for renewables which goes beyond simple targets to discuss what is needed and where it might go, or investment in renewable facilities in other countries where the revenue generated might help build stronger economies and communities.

Of course, the optimal answer would be smaller, more effective solar arrays and wind turbines, but we may just have to accept that, if we want to maintain our current lifestyles, we're going to have to make some concessions in terms of how our countryside looks going forward

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