Solar Farms: Impact on Local Communities

Energy Security and Net Zero – in the House of Commons at on 16 April 2024.

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Photo of James Gray James Gray Chair, Environmental Audit Sub-Committee on Polar Research, Chair, Environmental Audit Sub-Committee on Polar Research

What assessment she has made of the potential impact of solar farms on local communities.

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

As with any new development, solar projects may impact communities. The planning system considers all perspectives when balancing local impacts with national need. It is important that local areas benefit from hosting net zero infrastructure. Many developers already offer community benefit packages.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Chair, Environmental Audit Sub-Committee on Polar Research, Chair, Environmental Audit Sub-Committee on Polar Research

If the Minister had wanted to see the impact that a massive solar farm, such as the so-called Lime Down carbuncle in my constituency, will have on local people, he should have come to Malmesbury town hall last week, where 750 people were protesting against this appalling plan in North Wiltshire. It is going to be 2,000 acres of panels, 3 million panels, 5,000 acres blighted, and 30 miles to the nearest connection down at Melksham. It is an absolutely disgraceful proposal. It comes at a time when Wiltshire has eight out of 10 of the largest solar farms. We already have enough, vastly exceeding our county target for solar production. Will the Minister consider the cumulative effect of all these solar farms? Will he ask the National Infrastructure Commission to take into account the cumulative effect of solar farms when considering such applications?

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I very much thank my hon. Friend for that question. He raises a very interesting topic, and one that we are listening to. The project he speaks to is at the pre-application stage. An application is expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate between January and March 2025. Due to my quasi-judicial role in determining applications for development consent, it is not appropriate to comment on any specific matters. I am aware that some of his constituents are coming to Parliament this Thursday and I will be happy to meet them to discuss their concerns.